The internet is a veritable treasure trove of information, the extent of which no human mind can comprehend. You want an exhaustive selection of Plato? Two clicks away. An easy guide to ASCII? Not a problem. A page of 8-bit corgis dancing to techno? That’s there too. (Not making this one up). The point is, we have this unlimited knowledge pool and unrestricted access, so how is the human race still so contentedly mindless?
The answer though mundane, is perfectly simple. We’re the laziest species on Earth. All our greatest inventions came about because someone was looking to make their lives easier and while being able to order a pizza with zero human interaction is possibly the most beautiful experience I know, our refusal to commit to absorbing information in sections longer than 300 words is a genuinely alarming. But naturally, there’s a way around that too - enter, the podcast.
Neatly packaged bundles of data, wrapped up in relatable, digestable chunks that require no more effort than slipping on a pair of headphones. Across the world, people were instantly hooked. NPR became a hotspot of activity. World news, philosophy, arts, culture, politics, everything was suddenly open to the masses and so accessible that you could bump up a couple of IQ points on the way to work, the modern age of train journey intellectualism.
In India too, it became quite the underground movement, with sharing platforms like Soundcloud becoming a quick launchpad for new concepts. But the real beauty of the space and the freedom it affords lies in the fact that topics, ideas and cultures are not penned in by geographical boundaries. Across the world podcasts about Indian arts, music and politics became de riguer with many being led by Indian or Indian-origin hosts. As their positions as ‘Indians abroad’ they manage to convey a unique insight into global affairs with a South-Asian narrative. Though there are hundreds to explore across the web, we’ve complied a few of our favourites to get you started.
I. Aaminah Patel and Seetal Kaur
Through their podcast Two Brown Girls, Aaminah and Seetal take on the harrowing world of cultural stereotypes. Muslim and Sikh respectively, they consider themselves sisters and foster the idea of inter-communal harmony. They aim to define South Asian identity, both in the East and the West by challenging ideas, spreading awareness and encouraging positivity through open conversations about the ‘brown diaspora. They are also the founders of ForwardCulture an ‘initiative focusing on empowering the next generation by exploring creativity, heritage and identity.’
Listen to Two Brown Girls here.
II. Bobby Friction
Paramdeep Sehdev, better known by his professional persona, Bobby Friction joined BBC Radio 1 in 2002 as the co-host of the award winning show Bobby Friction & Nihal and later became a major player in the BBC Asian Network as the presenter of the Saturday afternoon Album Chart Show. His daily show on the Asian Network, Friction Show came to be viewed by many as the definitive Asian music show in the UK. Since December 2012 he has been presenting Friction on EVR, a weekly show on East Village Radio. Friction is well known for his ability to foster unknown talent and has been the driving force behind many underground Indian artists in the UK. He also hosts monthly sessions with university students to create diverse and insightful identity driven projects.
Listen to his work here.
III. Meghna Chakrabarti
Meghna is best known as the host of Modern Love, a take on the popular New York Times column by the same name where celebrities and the essayists themselves are invited to read some of the more popular articles. Aside from it’s consistently gripping content, the show has been lauded for being an achievement in sound design. She also hosts Radio Boston, WBUR’s hard-hitting weekday show with a focus on news, in-depth interviews and a broader perspective the issues affecting Boston, and beyond.
Listen to Modern Love here.
IV. Shankar Vedantam
Bangalore-born Vedantam is known in the podcast circles as the voice behind ‘Hidden Brain’, a show that uses science and storytelling to reveal the intricacies of human behaviour. Since 2002, Vedantam has been an actively championing mental health issues, with a WHO scholarship, as a Nieman Fellow and as a writer for The Washington Post’s “Department of Human Behavior” column. He later wrote a column, “Hidden Brain” for Slate Magazine which went on to be the podcast sensation we know today.
Listen to Hidden Brain here.
V. W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu
Longtime friends and constant comedians, Kamau and Hari have taken the shitstorm that is the political tableau of America, and turned it into a comedy of errors in Politically Re-active. Each week along with special guests they navigate the ins-and-outs of being an Indian in Trump’s America and ‘how to be an active part of the resistance, and how to stay joyful in the face of the unknown’.
Listen to Politically Reactive here.