If you want to understand a country the best place to start is by getting to know its people.
Sunil Khilnani, professor and director of the Indian Institute at Kings College London, is a man who knows a thing or two India and its people. He’s also knows how to tell a terrific story and does so superbly in Incarnations: India in 50 lives.
In a series of 15 minute podcasts Khilnani explores the lives of 50 incredible people and tells listeners how they have shaped modern day India.
There’s some big names in the list like the Buddha, the great Mughal Akbar and Ghandi ji, but Nehru, India’s first post independence Prime Minister, doesn’t get a look in.
Even Indian’s will be unfamiliar with some of the names that made the cut.
The story of a Malik Amber, an Abysinna Slave, who rose to power in the Deccan in the early 17th century, is one that raised an eyebrow or two. There’s also space in the top fifty for sometimes forgotten figures like social reformer Jyotirao Govindrao Phule and his wife, Savitribai Phule, who challenged caste and built the first schools to educate lower caste women.
A brilliant series by a brilliant man. Listen into the podcasts by clicking here or buy the book, Incarnations: India in 50 lives by Penguin, which is available in all good bookshops.