Podcasts have not caught the fancy of the Indian audience yet. And that could be down to a number of reasons from shorter attention spans to a bourgeois inclination towards a form of multimedia consumption that is mostly entertainment-driven. The imminent death of the All India Radio, is more example than symptom of a trend that doesn’t bode too well for a country looking to its young to pull through in the next couple of decades, a global intervention that has been talked up for the 60-odd years since independence. Podcasts have become a thing in the US and Europe. And for good reason, because contrary to local opinion, podcasts can be extremely fun.
What podcasts can also be, is educative and engaging in a way the written text – online or off – seldom is. A perfect example of this is Kit Patrick’s podcast History of India. Patrick’s podcast has now been running for more than a year. And through this podcast he looks at the history of India starting from 600 BC. The first episode in the series is wittily titled “The apology of a bumbling historian”. In the episode Patrick issues an apology for the names and places he is about to mispronounce. He also claims to be an aspiring historian, the factual nature of which comes with its own flaws – no history is complete and absolute.
Patrick admits to being drawn to India’s history by accident. “I chose Indian History out of cowardice because I thought it wouldn’t be as politically charged as most other histories in Europe are. But I was wrong, when I realised that the politics of Indian History is just as crucial if not more,” he says. Patrick goes on to say that most people consider India’s history to be a modern idea. And to these people you need to narrate a story, a story like that of Shakuntala, which he proceeds to do. The marginal handicap of his voice being foreign, actually serves as a lubricant of sorts that loosens the grip facts have over stories that can otherwise, sound like textbooks read as sleep-inducing drugs.
But telling India’s history isn’t as straightforward as many might think with its many threads. And Patrick admits to it. He says, “It is impossible to bring these threads together in a single coherent narrative. So I will narrate the history of what was the greatest place in ancient India, the city of Pataliputra.” This podcast is not your average, dull history lesson. It is not even a bootstrapped version of the classroom, because narration almost sounds like fiction with enough easy-going pauses; in the first episode at one point Patrick quotes Shakuntala as telling Bharat, ‘Dude I’m your wife’. Accompanied by the sound of the tabla, these pauses are carefully orchestrated and vital to the cast itself.
Its light nature, and Patrick’s effervescent yet grounded narration makes this podcast an absolute joy. Patrick comes across as involved and not just scraping the surface of what is a history he feels ‘more important than that of Rome’. The third season of the podcast is due and we are in 200 AD with many of Patrick’s interesting narratives to come. Hopefully the series can survive the test of time.