Delhi's own muse and more... .
FANI BADAYUNI was born in 1879 and a year or two later C.Y. Chintamani. Fani has almost been forgotten but it is heartening to note that an exhibition on Chintamani, the pioneer journalistic and liberal thinker, is on at the National Archives in New Delhi. Earlier, V.P. Singh released his biography, written by grandson Sunil Raman. The former Prime Minister disclosed that as a boy he had been greatly impressed with Chintamani, a fearless politician who had dared to leave the Indian National Congress and is still regarded as a great Parliamentarian and wit whose lecture series, "Indian Politics since the Mutiny'', stretched the political scene right up to 1857. Badayuni still awaits national recognition.
Sir Chintamani, who rubbed shoulders with Gandhi, Gokhale and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, would have been over 120 years old now but people still talk with great reverence about him and Rama Rao. Chintamani edited `The Leader of Allahabad' and Rama Rao -- father of Vikram Rao -- was his close associate. Theirs was a long relationship after which they came to Delhi. Rama Rao passed his last days with A.V. Ramana, a young man whom he groomed into a journalist. Ramana was to later on become "one of the most meticulous Chief Sub-Editors in Delhi" until his sudden death after a stroke in 1982, while he was on his way to The Statesman for night duty. Ramana would recount his days with Rama Rao and of how that veteran judged the world in his editorials -- once chastising a British Governor with his famous edit: "Good Morning, Sir... .''
Chintamani, Rama Rao's senior, was the best-known journalist of his times -- known as he Pope of Indian Journalism. Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged that fact, as also Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and others. One remembers the grand old man A.N. Takru talking with awe about Chintamani, under whom he had been an apprentice.
CYC, as he was known, would discuss each issue of the Leader threadbare with Rama Rao the next morning, debating over such finer points as to whether "the'' had been properly used or it should have been "a'' in the sentence. If one plumped for "the'', then the other would argue that it should have been "a'' or nothing at all. Chintamani thought the spirits helped him to write well and was convinced that Hitler was Hannibal reborn and Mussolini Julius Caesar, and he himself Marcus Aurelius. Rama Rao sneered. Quite impressed by their debates was M.C. Chalapathi Rau. The famous "M.C.'' or Magnus went on to edit Nehru's paper, National Herald, finally bringing it to Delhi before his retirement. Harinder Srivastava wrote a book on him, "Magnus and the Muses'', from which this sketch by Sudhir has been reproduced.
The house where Shaukat Ali Khan Fani Badayuni once lived has now made way for a new mansion. Few remember the old ramshackle building in Charsoo Darwaza, one of the gates in the Moghul era wall built during the reign of Shah Jahan, was resurrected by the British after the Mutiny and then demolished in the last decades of 19th Century.
The house in which Fani resided was owned by William Lyons and Joseph Lyons, the latter according to T.S. went about in a kurta and lungi, and sometimes bare-bodied too as he spent all his money on his main addiction, liquor. Joseph Lyons died in 1926. William Lyons, also a Bacchus lover, occupied part of the house and let off the remaining portions. Mother, then a schoolgirl, and her Jacob family were among the tenants.
About Fani, Father had vivid memories. He was born in Islampur in 1879. His great grandfather, Nawab Akbar Ali Khan had lost quite a bit of property during the Mutiny. However, he was even then ranked among the big zamindars. But by the time of Fani's father, Shujat Ali Khan, the family's palmy days were over and though their house was still known as the Mahal, the people who once paid court there, were missing. Shujat Ali Khan joined the police and became a thanedar (SHO) at Islam Nagar in Basoi tehsil. He was later transferred to Budaon, and the boy Fani and his mother returned with him to the Mahal.
Fani was educated at Government Height School and then at Bareilly College from where he graduated. Followed his marriage and then employment as a teacher in two schools, after which, on the advice of his father, he took a law degree from Aligarh University in 1908. He went to Lucknow and then came to Agra where he practised in the Civil Courts, situated near the old locality of Jhun Jhun Katora.
Father would meet Fani at the kothi of a Nawab. The poet would cycle to the courts half the way and walk the other half to avoid the bazaar. He published an Urdu magazine in 1931 that had to be closed after a few months because of financial loss. Earlier, he had sold his ancestral property, worth lakhs, for a few hundred rupees and when he found that he couldn't do well as a lawyer he went away to Hyderabad, where he was patronised by Maharaja Krisgam Prasad Shad. He died there on August 27, 1961 and was buried in the same cemetery where Ustad Daagh Dehlvi and Amir Minai, both famous poets, had been laid to rest.
Fani's misfortunes were many but the greatest perhaps was the death of a near one on whom he wrote these lines "Maal-e-soz- e-gham hai nihani dekhte jao / Bharak uthi hai shama zindagani dekete jao''. The beloved was surely like a candle -- some say it was his daughter -- which takes on an added glow before getting extinguished by a strong gust of wind. Fani's beloved died young but he carried the sorrow in his heart right up to his death at the age of 82. Chintamani did not have that sort of loss to contend with, but then he had other sorrows. Both he and the poet bore them heroically and we should remember them as such, warts and all!
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