What does it take for Nepal's formerly most-arrogant journalist to suddenly go soft on us? Those who knew Vijay Kumar Panday 15 years ago will wonder when they meet him today where that legendary swagger and haughty disdain have gone.
Partly it is spiritualism. Vijay has now become a devotee of Sai Baba and the Buddhist guru, Choikinima Rimpoche which has transformed his personality. "You may find it hard to believe," Vijay tells us, "but I was always an introverted person. I used my brashness to mask my shyness."
Still, who can forget his combative and blunt questioning of Amitabh Bachhan and some senior Indian ministers in the early 90s? Thanks to these high-profile television interviews in the pre-cable age, Vijay Kumar developed a reputation for being an interviewer who would chew people alive in the studio. Even senior political figures thought twice before agreeing to appear on his shows.
But watching him these days on his Monday night show, Dishanirdesh on Nepal Television, Vijay Kumar looks like he has reincarnated from a carnivore into a herbivore. "What my gurus did was point out the goodness in me. I think I have become less arrogant, less of a hypocrite and I think I am a genuinely better person. Earlier, my ambition was to become fantastically famous fantastically fast. Now, I just want to be a good human being."
Easier said than done, but this fellow mellows with age. He has now launched Sara, Sarans & Vijay, a television production house named after his daughter, wife and himself. Vijay has partnered with Siddharth S Rana of the Soaltee Group to set up SS&V, and it aims to produce news and current affairs for some of the four new television channels starting out in Kathmandu this year. He reasons: "The tv market has opened up, and people are looking for sharp, incisive and independent content." But promise not to chew people alive anymore?