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Nepal - foothills of democracy Friday, 6 November, 1998, 18:29 GMT
Daniel Lak biography
Daniel Lak
Daniel Lak reports from central Nepal, late 1998

Daniel claims that his journey to Delhi, to become the BBC India correspondent, began with a memorable meal in the Canadian city of Toronto, 20 years ago.

"I was from a small town near Canada's capital, Ottawa, and I had no idea about South Asian cooking.

"Then we went to a resaurant in Toronto called Omar Khayyam, run by a man from Peshawar, Pakistan. That was it, I had to get to the subcontinent."

Food was the beginning of the obsession, now it's nearly everything else.

Lak left university early to work as a civil servant, then as a radio news broadcaster in seven different cities in Canada, with forays into television and print as well. Then came a big break.

Daniel Lak
Daniel Lak started his BBC career in the World Service Newsroom
"I went to Britain for an extended cycling holiday, and found out about all the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants. This was the place for me. So I stayed, and the BBC was generous enough to give me a job in the World Service Newsroom."

Lak's interest in most things South Asian came to fruition in Bush House with its uniquely multi-cultural working environment and its legions of fascinating people from all over the world. Lak applied for the job of BBC correspondent in Islamabad in 1988 but was told to wait. Instead the job went to fellow Canadian, Lyse Doucet, whom he eventually ended up replacing in 1992.

"I was overjoyed to be going to Pakistan. I knew a lot of people there. I also knew there would be plenty of news, and there was."

Daniel Lak got his chance to work in Pakistan in 1993
In his first year as Islamabad correspondent, there were five changes of government, four Prime Ministers, three presidents, two army chiefs and fortunately only one BBC representative.

The three years he spent there with his wife and two children are among the best the family has ever had. Lak covered both Benazir Bhutto's return to power in 1993, and her eventrual dismissal in 1996. He was on hand for the first days of the Taliban student militia taking over the Afghan capital, Kabul. But it was all leading to Delhi, to South Asia's largest, most complex and fascinating country - India.

"This is such a wonderful place for a journalist. You work constantly, but you meet everybody and the BBC's high profile means you get interviews. Sometimes you get criticised too, people accuse you of playing up poverty, violence and corruption - the negative aspects of Indian life. I don't buy that.

"I think we are fairer to India than even the Indian media. We find success stories as well as tragedy.

"Last year's 50th anniversary of independence from Britain was as much about rags to riches stories, the refusal of Muslims and Hindus to surrender to religious hatreds and the growth of a modern Indian pop culture as it was about the violence of partition."

Lak has, he hopes, at least two years left in India - what are his plans?

"To get up to the Himalayas as often as possible, to show just how India is becoming such a crucial player in the global economy, despite how the antics of some hold it back, to see more of my family and to stay sane even as the BBC demands more and more of me."

BBC News
Daniel Lak interviewing Benazir Bhutto in 1993 on the issue of Kashmir
BBC News
A special report from Bombay to mark India's 50th anniversary of independence
BBC News
A special report highlighting the diversity of Indian music
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