Writer's study, neighbour's PRIDE
V.P. Vaidik has just penned a book on Afghanistan. And well into his sixth decade, is still full of beans.
Ved Pratap Vaidik, doyen of Hindi journalism, seen with the Afghan Prime Minister, Hamid Karzai.
YOU NEED the patience of a monk to listen to him. And as much detachment to sift from his storytelling skills to his penchant for history. He can tell you a hundred things and then one before answering a question on Afghanistan, his "passion", his karmabhumi. "I have such passion for Afghanistan, such feeling, I think in my previous birth I must have been an Afghan. The Pathans are our ancestors. Panini was born there. He gave us our grammar. He was a Pathan. I have deep, abiding affinity for the land," says Ved Pratap Vaidik.
Little wonder he has penned "Afghanistan: Kal Aaj Aur Kal", a scholarly work that has been given short shrift by the Hindi media. Strange, considering Vaidik has edited Navbharat Times and been at the helm of affairs at PTI Basha in the past. Vaidik believes otherwise. "Hindi editors are literary figures. Their journalism is about poetry, novel, literature. Serious subjects like history and sociology do not interest them. Afghanistan is foreign to them. It is sad that those who know Afghanistan know no Hindi. There have been cases when some professors have praised my writing without knowing Hindi. I don't care for such lavish praise. I want a critical analysis of my book."
A brief flirtation with modesty, and Vaidik lapses into the familiar: "No Indian scholar has worked on Afghanistan like me. I did a Ph.D on that State from 1965 to `68, `A Comparative Study of Afghanistan's Relations with the U.S. and the Soviet Union' in Hindi. This coupled with my researched pieces on Afghanistan made me an expert on it and has given me free access to Afghanistan's Prime Minister and others. I was treated like a son by Zahir Shah and received at the doorstep of the Parliament by the father of the present Prime Minister Hamid Karzai."
And the self-adulation continues: "Once Zahir Shah admonished his officials for putting me up in the PM's suite and not the palace! On another occasion, our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked for my book on Afghanistan when another on India's foreign policy was presented to her."
Some rare material
But give the devil its due. "The entire book is based on research. There are only rare personal anecdotes and these references have been used only when absolutely necessary. The book contains some rare unpublished material. For instance, about how there was a request for using Indian forces in Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet occupation."
Through with this 200-odd page book brought out by Rajkamal Prakashan, Vaidik is not resting on his oars. "I am nearing 60 but I am busy throughout the day with my three columns and frequent foreign visits. I am also about to finish a book, `Mahashakti Bharat'."
Having just come back from Pakistan and China, he now has to go to Dhaka. Colombo beckons too. Amidst all this, the uniquely styled expert on Afghanistan understands that his present book is a "risk". Not much though, if one believes that all you have to do to humour him is to be a passive listener in a conversation with him. Now just read him. Therein lies wisdom.
ZIYA US SALAM
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