Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Story of India

Telling the tale of a country as ancient and massive as India is no easy feat. But distinguished TV historian and housewives’ crumpet, Michael Wood has succeeded in doing just that for his BBC series and book, The Story of India. Dressed in his trademark fuchsia shirt, Wood delighted the Chichester Festivities audience who came to hear him speak this week. The veteran travel broadcaster took an entranced audience through his favourite journey in India; the trip from the Kerala coast across the mountains to Tamil Nadu. His enthusiastic and sensuous descriptions were accompanied by his down to earth holiday snaps, taken during numerous trips he has made over the last three decades.

Wood’s narrative confidently married opulent descriptions of his Indian experience with details of the country's history and culture. He recounted dates, figures and names with such ease that his speech was more like a relaxed conversation rather than academic lecture. Enthusiastic at all times, most of the audience left with seriously itchy feet. Or maybe it was Michael rather than Mumbai that captured the predominantly female audience!

The book that accompanies the series delivers a portrait of the county in an equally fluid style. His text follows the very first nomadic inhabitants of the country all the way though to growth of India’s bustling cities. Wood’s rambling style of asides, anecdotes, myths, anthropological facts and vivid description make the book difficult to categorize but incredibly enjoyable. It flows like the monologue of an old friend. A pleasant journey indeed.

The Story of India is published by BBC Books, £8.99

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