The Vidyarthis are icons in printing, media

Tv Presenter Smiriti Vidyarthi, Sudhir Vidyarthi and Girdhari Vidyarthi

The Vidyarthis are known for their formidable forays in media and printing via Colourprint which came into the limelight for printing radical publications in the dark days of single party dictatorship in the 1990s.

But the story of the Vidyarthis started with their patriarch, Shamdass Bootamal Horra, a stationmaster, arriving in Kenya from Punjabi, Northern India in 1896 as part of the Coolies constructing the Uganda Railway. He oversaw the Tsavo stretch, surviving the ‘Man Eaters’ there. He died in 1957. The Horra family name was dropped for Vidyarthi meaning ‘student.’

Girdhari L. Vidyarthi: Horra’s son edited the English and Gujarati newspaper, The Colonial Times, co-founded with Goan physician A.C.L. de Souza and printed by his father’s Colonial Printing Works in 1933. Girdhari launched, Habari za Dunia, Kenya’s first privately owned Kiswahili newspaper in 1935. He was 25. For his radicalism, he became the first publisher (his son, Anil, the last) to face sedition charges after highlighting the plight of African soldiers returning from World War II in 1945. 

In Mau Mau & Nationhood, John Lonsdale notes that Girdhari endured stringent colonial controls to become a “champion of the freedom of the press” through crusading journalism and printing militant indigenous publications like Ramogi, Sauti ya Mwafrika and Jicho. Girdhari Lal Vidyarthi died in 1985.

Sudhir Vidyarthi: Son of Girdhari followed his dad’s footsteps in printing and has been MD of Colourprint since 1970 alongside his brother, Bhushan Vidyarthi. Sudhir, a director at Africa Cancer Foundation and Research Solutions Africa partnered with Patrick Quarcoo, William Pike and Kiprono Kittony to found Radio Africa Group where he’s deputy chair.

Anil Vidyarthi: The director at Colourprint fearlessly printed ‘anti-government’ publications like Finance, The Nairobi Law Monthly, The People and Society at the height of agitation for Kenya’s Second Liberation in the 1990s. He became the last publisher detained on sedition charges in 1998 after his father 45 years earlier. He was later acquitted and sedition laws repealed!

Smiriti Vidyarthi-Mohindra: Daughter of Anil. The alumnus of University of Warwick (BA, broadcast journalism) and City University (MA, International broadcast journalism) is a renowned TV reporter, host and anchor.

Arjun Vidyarthi: Son of Sudhir. Besides stints as Vipul, radio comedian, sports journalism and commentary, the alumnus of Liverpool John Moores University, co-runs Rai Productions with his wife, Geeta Vidyarthi. His brother, Amardeep Vidyarthi, an alumnus of London School of Economics and University of Southern California, is Colourprint CEO.

 

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