Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Kate Chisholm

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Kate Chisholm

Article excerpt

After a month cooped up in a Scottish castle, no internet, no TV, and no radio, watching hectic snowflakes billowing through the wooded hillside opposite my window, I realise that what I've missed most about this supposed deprivation has not been the news (to which I thought I was addicted) or the chatter, the company of other voices, but the chance to be taken in my head to other places and inside quite different experiences of life. It's not just the factual education that radio can provide (although I'm pretty sure most of what I know has come from listening on air), it's the absorbing intimacy of hearing other people talk about themselves, as if only to you, one-to-one, in direct communication. This week, for instance, the World Service has given us two programmes about India, or rather about the state of the Indian economy today. Not dry, academic accounts of why India has been left behind by China and in spite of its incredible resources of manpower and materials still has 300 million people below the poverty line, but conversations with Indians as they go about their daily lives. What hopes do they have? Do they believe change is possible? How do they cope with the frustrations of India's vastly inadequate infrastructure?

In Living India on Tuesday, for instance, Rupa Jha of BBC Hindi set herself the task of finding out what it really means to live in India today, not just for the rich or middle-class but also for those in remote villages with no sanitation, no electricity, no change for centuries. She travelled to the eastern state of Bihar (where she comes from) and to its capital Patna, where she met an eye doctor who runs her own private clinic. We heard the doctor's alarm clock as it pee-pipped her awake at 5 a.m., giving her time for a moment of silent prayer before starting her day. 'I need to connect with God at this time of day,' she said, 'to pray for my patients. I need God's help.'

Another doctor, a surgeon, has to travel every day to and from his clinic via the Ganga Bridge across the Ganges. It can take hours: there's too much traffic and in places the bridge is falling into the river. How does he cope with the challenge of trying to operate on his patients when at any moment the electricity might go off? It's 'extremely stressful', he says. Every morning he, too, spends two minutes in prayer once he arrives at the clinic, to shake off the exhaustion of the journey, 'so that I can perform as a doctor'. …

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