My friend and veteran journalist Mahesh Vijapurkar this morning emailed me a link of the following story of the Guardian, and asked my opinion about its language. (He has asked other senior journalists also.)
I emailed him my response as follows:
"As you are aware, I am currently obsessed with Plain and Simple language for newspaper writing. I checked the readability of the news text. The two tests for readability indicated that this story could be understood by an 8th-grade student in a US school.
There are no difficult words. Clauses are absent. The lead and paragraphs are written taught in the textbooks of the media schools.
I wish all of us Indian journalists use such simple language."
28th May 1964 (The Guardian)
Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, is dead. At 2 p.m. local time today 460,000,000 people in this country that has been forged on the anvil of this one man's dreams and conflicts were plunged into the nightmare world which they have, in the last decade, come to dread as the "after Nehru" era.
At 6.25 a.m. today Mr Nehru, who had gone to sleep last night "fresh and fit" after his short holiday at a hill station, had a stroke. He lost consciousness almost immediately, but not before he had complained to his valet of a pain in the back. He died without regaining consciousness, and according to a member of his household, his death was due to "an internal haemorrhage, a paralytic stroke, and a heart attack."
His daughter, Mrs Indira Gandhi, had sent immediately for the three doctors who had been attending Mr Nehru since his last stroke some six months ago. They tried everything but failed.
Parliament, which had reassembled this morning for a special seven day session, had been told that the Prime Minister was sinking. MPs heard the news of his death at 2.05 p.m. During question hour Mr Nehru was to have replied to a series of questions about Kashmir and Sheikh Abdullah. Mr Gulzarilal Nanda, the Minister of Home Affairs, is taking charge of the caretaker Cabinet. There is to be a Cabinet meeting tomorrow morning. Mr Nanda is the most senior of the Ministers.
At about 4.00 this afternoon after the MPs and the Cabinet Ministers, the Congressmen and the Socialists and the Communists, the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Moslems, had gone in by a side door of the Prime Minister's house, I was allowed to see the body. My shoes joined the others outside, silent witnesses to a sacred moment.
I walked into a house laden with the smell of burning sandalwood sticks, softly past nameless white men in khadi into the bedroom in which he lay.
It was a white wake that was being kept in the bedroom on the first floor. One's first instinct was not to look at Mr Nehru but at the people around him.
After five minutes one dared to see him. No, the face was not waxen. No, the face was not sad. No, the face was not in pain. No, the face was not that of an old man.
The face was frozen into a mould of bewildered determination. In death as in life this was a face not of repose but of eager, impatient discovery.
One walked out to let in the diplomatists, the MPs, the Sikhs and the Hindus and the Moslems. They came - but they did not weep. Instead, the eyes shifted, there were tremors of disbelief, tinctured with moments of illumination as if this had to happen, and then the eyes shifted again. This time with fear.
Fear was the one dominant feeling one experienced as one came out. Fear that at this moment one had to avoid the reality of Nehru's death and the Pandora's box of suppressed ambitions it will release.
The funeral procession tomorrow will cover six miles. Mr Nehru will be cremated at Raj Ghat, where Gandhi was cremated. The last rites for this agnostic will be administered by Hindu priests.