I have been associated with Atal ji for the last 55-56 years. I came to Delhi for my Ph.D. in 1965 which is 53 years ago. In due course my bonding with Atal ji grew stronger, rather this bonding evolved into friendship despite the age difference between us. Later on, Atal ji became India’s external affairs minister and three-times India’s Prime Minister as well but this did not affect our selfless friendship. Today I can remember several anecdotes with Atal ji and I am still undecided which one to write about.
When leaders of RSS and Jan Sangh such as Atal ji, Balraj Madhok ji, Jagannth Rao Joshi ji, DeenDayal ji, Guru Golwarkar ji came over to Indore then I too used to get chance to deliver speeches along with them. It was thence that I first came into contact with Atal ji. During those days the Tibet issue was simmering. Atal ji used to heavily criticise Nehru's policy very clearly in his speech but did not speak a word against Nehru. On the next day, if the Congress candidate from the Lok Sabha Ram Singh Bhai or Gangaram ji Tiwari (MLA) would meet me, they would tell me, "Your Atal ji delivers a great speech."
If I asked him how do you know, he wouldn’t have tell anything but his colleagues would saay that he used to sit with curtains in his jeep near Subhash Chowk and used to listen to Atalji's speech. Atalji's speech had such a magic in it, that even his opponents used to praise him. In those days many Congress leaders were originally Aryasamaji. How could they stay without hearing Atalji? Atalji himself was originally an Aryasamaji.
In 1965-66 a big controversy broke out in 'Indian School of International Studies'. The fame of that controversy had become universal, nationally and internationally. I was doing Ph.D. on foreign policy of Afghanistan. I wanted to write the research paper in Hindi I was fired from the school. I used to receive the largest scholarship (UGC), it was stopped. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Acharya Kripalani, Madhu Limaye, Hem Baruah, Prakashvir Shastri, Bhagwat Jha Azad, Rajnarayan, Heeran Mukherjee etc. all these leaders of the party created such a ruckus in the Parliament that Parliament was stalled. Parliament had been stalled many times over the issue of my research paper in Hindi. Only the leaders of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam opposed me, but after the intervention of Prime Minister Indiraji, the constitution of the school was amended and I got admission back.
I lived in the Hostel of Sapru House on Barakhamba Road. I was its first resident and the first president. Atalji lived on 30, Rajendra Prasad Road. His house was so near that I often used to walk up to his house. Atalji lived alone there. This is where I met Deendayal Upadhyay, Balraj Madhok, Kedarnath Sahni, Madanlal Khurana, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Hansrajji Gupta etc.
Once Atalji requested that I should accept the responsibility of the Editorial of Panchjanya, but I told him that I am doing Ph.D and I am going to New York, Moscow, London and Kabul for research. Passports are ready and visas are in process. Then this responsibility was given to Prof. Devendra Swarup ji and later Dinanath Mishra took over. As long as I was in India, I kept writing for Panchjanya.
Atalji was neither an extreme idealist nor a fundamentalist! That is why he went along with everyone. He was liked by Congressmen, Socialists and Communist leaders also loved him wholeheartedly. One day, Dr. Lohia told me that I am bringing a bill in the Parliament to limit people's income and expenditure. Nobody should spend more than 2 thousand rupees per month. Dr. Saheb said that Atal is your friend. You tell him to support me in Parliament. I told Atalji so he said that “Brother! Tell him that the spending limit of 2000 is not sufficient, increase it to 3000. What to say about the socialists? They can sleep anywhere, eat anything, wear anything. How do we imitate them?”
Atalji used to attack the Communists in his unique sarcastic style, but he liked many things of the socialists. Like Dr. Lohia’s ‘Abolish English Movement’, ‘Ramayana Mela’ and the ‘Concept of the World Government’, but he still used to say that why is there so much bitterness in the socialists? Why do they keep talking so many bitter things against Jawaharlalji and Indiraji? On Tibet and China's question, he used to be sharper than the socialists in the Parliament but when Dr. Lohia used to give a slogan to the Indo-Pak Federation on the question of Pakistan, then Atalji used to push the concept of United India. He was an ardent advocate of Hindi but yet he refrained from openly opposing the hegemony of English. I used to argue fiercely on this issue several times. I told them that Maharshi Dayanand, Gandhi and Lohia never opposed the learning of foreign languages. They used to oppose the slavery of these languages. Atalji later started saying that he also oppose the slavery of languages. This was also exhibited in one of the poems he penned while being in jail during emergency.
The Imprisoned Poet Says,
Stop worrying about the World.
First break the
Fortress of English at Home.
(Translation of Hindi Poem)
Atalji is the first leader of India, who gave his speech in Hindi as the External Affairs Minister in the United Nations. When Foreign Secretary Mr. Jagat Mehta was asked to prepare the Hindi speech, the officers felt very awkward but Atalji maintained his stand and made the history by giving his speech in Hindi in the United States. I regret that 40 years have passed since this incident, but Hindi has not yet become the official language of the United Nations Union. I have also got the resolutions passed in World Hindi Conferences but Hindi, one of the most spoken language in the World has not yet gained its rightful position in the World Institution.
What to say about Atalji's Hindi love? His speeches had a magical effect. Some of my colleagues in the office of the Union Public Service Commission located at Shahjahan Road had protested and demanded to remove the inevitability of English in the recruitment examination for government jobs. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. I organized a demonstration. It was attended by several prominent leaders like, former President Gyani Jail Singh, former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Atalji, and Nitish Kumar. Atalji's delivered a very motivational speech. It was widely reported in the newspapers. Mr Rao phoned me in the morning and asked me, who had brought those ideological conflicting leaders there? I said, Hindi didi it. An interesting incident about Hindi happened when Atalji was the Prime Minister. Atalji allowed me to organize ‘Hindi Day’ at Prime Minister's residence. Congress’ General Secretary Budhadhari Maurya and Atalji were present on stage with me. In addition to many ministers in the audience, there were many prominent political leaders, litterateurs, Journalists and Hindi-loving people. I asked Atalji in my speech, 'Atalji, tell me, who made you the Prime Minister?' As soon as I asked this question, all the audience and Atalji also appeared perplexed. Atalji softly said, 'You tell me, Sir'. I said, 'Atalji, you are the country's unique speaker and your speeched have always been in Hindi. That’s why it is Hindi who has made you the Prime Minister. As soon I said this there was a huge round of applause in the hall and a nice smile appeared on Atalji’s face. Then I tossed a new question, "So, It was Hindi which made you Prime Minister, have you also made it something after becoming PM? Even today, its status is like a maid and English is Queen". It triggered the next round of applause. In his speech, Atalji elaborated the steps he had taken for Hindi. Later he said “Shri Vaidik ji, you did not spare me today. You unravelled me.” Sister Sushma Swaraj was also there with me.
But I must say that Atalji never got offended by my words. He used to talk to me on phone, especially on the foreign issues! As far as Hindi is concerned, I got an opportunity to repay Atal ji’s debt. When Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, I and my close friend Shri Kupp C Sudershan ji who was Sarsanghchalak of RSS suggested Mr Chauhan to set up a university in Bhopal, in which all the subjects should be taught in Hindi, including Medical and Legal. Shivraj Singh approved this, later the university was named after Atal ji as Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University. But due to ill health, Atalji could never go to that university even once.
Despite many reforms in India, the education system is still so bad that India is considered to be a backward country. If India wants to be a superpower, it will first have to make radical changes in its education system. What could be the greater honour for Atalji than this?
My first speech on the Foundation Day of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University was titled 'Hindi University of my dreams'! In fact it is a university of Atalji's dreams. In 2001, HD Devegowda also went to Atalji's Prime Minister's residence with me on September 14 to celebrate Hindi-Day. When I told Atalji that I was bringing Deve Gowda as the chief guest of the day, he was very happy. Deve Gowda even gave his speech in Hindi.