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."

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  Direct Link   Download 0 Minutes 29 Feb 2016

Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. We are accustomed to mathematicians as enigmatic beings, but the case of Ramanujan, one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century, is particularly mysterious. His life seems to be have been spun from the stuff of fiction and film. It's told most often as a tale of a deeply religious, largely self-taught savant, rescued from an obscure south Indian town and brought to Cambridge by a don - where, just as his world changing potential was being unlocked, he died at the age of 32, leaving his greatest insights still secret. This idealistic narrative - cut with various quantities of exoticism and the miraculous, depending on the teller - even involves some lost notebooks, dramatically rediscovered decades later, and a cryptic but ultimately revelatory deathbed letter. In most re-tellings, the maths are merely a backdrop to the drama and tragedy. But Ramanujan's theoretical discoveries are recognized today as being at the forefront of the discipline: with implications for scientists at the cutting edge of cancer research as well as physicists trying to understand the deepest structures of the universe. Featuring Professor Ken Ono. Readings by Sagar Arya. Producer: Martin Williams.. . .