Venu Chitale: A Pioneering Indian Writer and Broadcaster

Venu Chitale
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Who was Venu Chitale, and how did her voice resonate across continents? Venu Chitale, who also went by Leela Ganesh Khare, was a remarkable woman from India who wore many hats – she was a writer, worked for BBC Radio, and even helped George Orwell with his work during the early part of World War II. 

Her life’s story took her all over the world, connecting different cultures and languages. But what exactly made her stand out? Let us tell you her story and find out how she left a lasting impression through her words and actions.

Birth, Parents and Education

Venu Chitale
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Venu was born on 28 December 1912 in Shirol, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India.  She was the second youngest of seven children, raised by her older siblings after losing both parents. 

Her educational journey took her from Huzurpaga girls’ school in Pune to St. Columba High School in Mumbai. 

Later, she became a student boarder at Wilson College, Mumbai, where she met her mentor, Johanna Adriana Quinta Du Preez.

Johanna Adriana Quinta Du Preez, an Afrikaaner teacher, played a pivotal role in shaping Venu Chitale’s life

Impressed by Chitale’s love for theatre, Du Preez became her mentor. Together, they embarked on a journey to England after an astrologer predicted family troubles if Chitale were to marry. 

Venu attended University College London to learn about the Montessori approach to education. 

She also served as a volunteer in an Oxford air raid precaution unit during World War II, where she helped alert residents to bombings and participated in rescue efforts.

Venu Chitale’s Roles and Contributions

BBC and George Orwell

In 1940, Venu Chitale relocated to London to join the Indian Section of the BBC. She was hired as a secretary for George Orwell, who at the time was a Talks Producer. This marked the start of her influential career in broadcasting.

Broadcasting Across Continents

Chitale’s voice resonated across continents. She contributed to the India section of the BBC’s Eastern Service by reading news and sharing recipes in her native language, Marathi.

Simultaneously, she taught British listeners vegetarian cooking during meat rationing on the BBC Home Service.

Walking the Fine Line

Representing India’s freedom movement, Chitale skillfully balanced her support for Britain’s fight against fascism with her anti-imperial views about the Raj. Her unique voice and content cast Indians in a friendly, pro-British light.

Her First Novel

Chitale’s first novel, titled In Transit, was published in 1950.

Later Career

In approximately 1944, Chitale was employed by Krishna Menon at the India League in London. 

After her tenure at the BBC, she departed from Liverpool for Bombay on December 4th, 1947 on the RMS Empress of Australia. 

During this year, she aided Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit in assisting refugee women and children in the camps established in Delhi due to India’s Partition. 

Her debut novel, In Transit, was released in 1950. Chitale’s life is chronicled in a chapter of Vijaya Deo’s book Sakhe Soyare, written in Marathi.

Influence on Other Writers & Broadcasters

Breaking New Ground at the BBC

Venu Chitale was a trailblazer at the BBC, known for her unique voice that caught everyone’s attention. 

She had a deep understanding of both Indian and British cultures, which allowed her to connect these two worlds on her radio shows. 

Her fresh way of doing things probably inspired other radio personalities to think outside the box too.

Speaking Up Through The Airwaves

Chitale didn’t just play music; her shows dug into serious topics, exploring new ways for women to express themselves and stand up for what they believe in, both in Britain and India. 

She cleverly balanced her support for Britain’s fight in World War II with her criticism of British rule in India, paving the way for other broadcasters to speak their minds on air.

Earning Listener’s Trust

With a voice that was both enchanting and relatable, Chitale won over listeners in India during a time when trust was hard to earn. 

The British government was worried about losing control over India, but Chitale’s friendly chats and positive stories about British life helped ease tensions.

A Symbol of Hope

Beyond just her radio programs, Chitale stood as a symbol of hope and connection for Indians living far from home, whether in the UK or elsewhere. 

She showed how cultural exchange could bring people together, even in tough times, leaving a lasting impact not just in broadcasting, but in the hearts of her listeners.

Venu Chitale Personal Life

Venu Chitale Personal Life
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In 1951, Venu Chitale married Ganesh Khare, a chartered accountant. Their union marked a new chapter in her life, where personal and professional spheres intertwined. 

Despite her unconventional choices, Chitale continued to write and engage with societal issues. According to available information, Venu Chitale had no children.


Venu Chitale passed away at the age of 82 on 1 January 1995 in Mumbai. Her unique life defied convention and left a lasting impact on broadcasting and literature.

Awards and Recognition

Venu Chitale received the prestigious Padma Shri award in 1955, one of the highest civilian honours in India. 

This recognition was given in appreciation of her exceptional clarity, profound insights, and steadfast dedication towards promoting social justice.

Her life and impact have been immortalised in various forms, including a chapter dedicated to her in Vijaya Deo’s book “Sakhe Soyare” and a Google Doodle celebrating her 111th birthday.

Bottom Line

Venu Chitale’s life is a great example of how strong people can be when the world around them is changing a lot. 

Starting from her younger days in Maharashtra to her important work at BBC Radio during the war, and then later writing books and helping with important social issues, she showed the kind of spirit that was needed in a time full of changes and tough situations.

What do you think?

Written by Zane Michalle

Zane is a Viral Content Creator at UK Journal. She was previously working for Net worth and was a photojournalist at Mee Miya Productions.

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