Just two days ago the Nehru Centre hosted a talk by one of the greatest travellers of our time, Michael Palin. Yesterday the Nehru Centre was yet again, privileged to be the venue for a talk given by another great figure from the world of British broadcasting, Michael Wood, the British historian and broadcaster. In this lavishly illustrated talk Michael Wood looked back over 25 years of his travels to South India (namely places such as Tanjore, and other places of historical significance). Mr. Wood's fascinating talk had a packed audience, among which some distinguished guests included Dr. John Marr (Hon. Gen. Secretary of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and a Padma Shri- one of India's highest award's), Mrs Wendy Marr (Dr. Marr's wife and a prolific writer on Indian Art History), and some distinguished guests from the Indian High Commission in London.
During his lavishly illustrated talk, Mr. Wood suggested that Dravidian India was the world's last surviving classical civilisations. One thing I really admired was his passion for Indian culture, art and of course, history. He explained that what really inspired him to get so deeply involved into Indian culture was not derived from his background in academia, but rather more the fact that he grew up in a typical northern English (dull maybe a better word!) town which did not possess much of an excitement for someone who had progressed onto Oxford to study History! Mr. Wood went on to explain in his talk that even at Oxford, in those days, Indian history was not taught- so both of these reasons inspired him to go and explore this amazing part of the country.
The talk contained a variety of intensely evocative images of landscapes and sacred places, of great temples and tiny rural shrines, stone and bronze sculptures of unrivalled beauty, along with still vital living traditions, celebrations and pilgrimages. Then in the middle of the talk Mr. Wood had two fascinating pictures of an ancient temple's archaeological site taken from a Vayadoot Airways plane. He somehow managed to persuade the Captain (bearing in mind the plane has passengers) to fly over the ancient site at low altitude. The talk did have a more serious thought behind it- it was run in association with "The Gopalapuram Educational Society", which runs 4 schools providing free education for less privileged children in Chennai. So it was all for good causes.
Dr. John Marr, who speaks much better Hindi than I (and speaks, and sings fluently in Tamil- a language of which I have no knowledge), gave some words of advice to the audience that derived from his own experiences. The brilliance of Michael Wood's style is such that he actually makes you feel as if you are in South India. For someone like myself, who has only been to India twice in his entire life (despite being born there), and that also only to a tiny part of the country, it was rather embarrassing because I cannot speak the language, and one day I would love to go and explore this part of the world. I am, however, much more intrigued to explore the roots of my heritage, which lie in Rajasthan (Somewhere around Ajmer and Jodhpur)!
Many thanks to the Nehru Centre, Dr. John Marr and Mr. Michael Wood for the invitation and the talk. Below are some photos of the event:
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