Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

By Prof Sunil Khilnani

On Going since May 2015 • Updated weekly

Over the course of 50 episodes, Sunil Khilnani, director of the King's India Institute in London, takes listeners on a whirlwind journey from ancient India to the 21st century through the prism of the life stories of 50 remarkable individuals. He will also explore their surprising afterlives, which illuminate both the astonishments and urgent conflicts of India today.

He begins with the Buddha, exploring the story of his life and how he has been reinvented in modern India by those who oppose the caste system. "Buddha's solution to suffering lay in the individual mind. But he was also sketching a new form of society," says Professor Khilnani. "He was a moral meritocrat, and to an extent a social one too."

All Episodes

  Direct Link   Download 0 Minutes 11 Mar 2016

Sunil Khilnani explores the life and work of India's master of the short story, Saadat Hasan Manto. Manto didn't fuss much over his sentences. He wrote in a rush, at hack speed, for money - and often legless drunk. His raw, visceral, personal response to his experiences - including the massacre at Amritsar, cosmopolitan Bombay and the horror of Partition - matched a historical moment that needed a raw, human response. In a divided country that Manto thought possessed 'too few leaders, and two many stuntmen', his sentences asserted, plainly, the human facts - not the moral or political motives that produced them. As Professor Khilnani says, 'for all the velocity that his economy of language creates, the pressure of a story builds slowly. You're never quite prepared for the moment that blasts off the emotional roof. His sentences etch a groove in the mind not because he saturates his truths about atrocity in lurid color, but because he delivers them off-hand, even elliptically.' Readings by Sagar Arya. Producer: Martin Williams.. . .