Home Feature Raj Kanwar: From a Rolling Stone to a Celebrated Author

Raj Kanwar: From a Rolling Stone to a Celebrated Author


By Aloke Lal

Raj Kanwar, the veteran journalist, who regaled his readers for several decades through his delightful columns, has passed away. In his passing, Dehradun has lost its chronicler, the man who knew the city and its people inside-out.

Meeting Raj Kanwar was never a dull occasion. His wit, ability for deep understanding of issues, friendliness and joie de vivre made him a great friend.

In his celebrated book, ‘Dateline Dehradun’, part 2 of which was published last year, he encapsulated his 90 years thus, “…my life in reality has had three distinct phases. I was virtually like a rolling stone in the first phase, giving up one lucrative job after another at the drop of a hat.” About the subsequent phases of life he adds, “…I was successively the editor at the Directorate of Public Relations and Tourism in Himachal Pradesh, and the first Public Relations Officer of ONGC…” He goes on to describe how he chucked a lucrative job in Calcutta and returned to Dehradun in 1964.

His coming back to Dehradun was eventful. He launched a magazine, ‘Witness’, which he called ‘A Newsweekly with a Difference’, on August 15, 1964. The magazine went on to become the first newsweekly to be sold at news stalls and through street vendors.

Raj Kanwar was a student of DAV College. He took active part in student politics and got elected as President of the students’ union. His incisive understanding of politics made him an astute commentator on political matters of the country.

The next avatar of the public relations expert-turned-journalist was one of a businessman. He has recounted in his inimitable style how it was possible for him to represent RUSKA Instrumentation Corporation when ONGC tendered for sub-surface samplers. “…I then had no inkling whatsoever about RUSKA or the instrument known as sub-surface sampler. With prayers on my lips and trembling fingers on the keyboard of my Smith Corona typewriter, I typed my first business letter requesting RUSKA for a quotation… Of course I had mentioned in the letter that I was ONGC’s first PRO.” Raj Kanwar’s astute business sense was perceptible when he surrendered half of his 10 per cent commission in favour of ONGC thus becoming the lowest bidder.

This was the beginning of a long career as a businessman which brought him handsome financial rewards. He later established the highly successful firm SK Oilfield. The management of this firm passed on from Raj Kanwar to his son Manav in the year 2000 when he put in his papers as its Executive Chairman.

This move gave him the opportunity to return to his favourite activities: reading and writing. He says, “Over the past 20 years, I have been doing what I love doing the best, i.e., reading and writing, and that too with a vengeance.”

On Monday the 31st October morning, Raj Kanwar breathed his last, leaving behind a huge number of his admirers grieving for the departure of one of those citizens of Doon vale who brought it recognition as a city of intellectuals and authors. He is survived by his wife Amber, daughter Minnie, and sons Manav and Gagan. The whole family was in Dehradun recently to celebrate the 92nd birthday of Dehradun’s illustrious son on October 8.