The self-deprecation with which Kit Patrick kicked off The History of India is a running theme in his podcast, which was launched in July 2015.
“Today we’re going to talk about how I’m going to screw it up. What we’re talking about is Indian history,” said Patrick, in the inaugural episode, titled ‘The apology of a bumbling historian’.
But a bumbling historian he is not.
A teaching fellow in the philosophy department at University of Bristol, Patrick created the podcast as a tribute to his late wife, Snehal Sidhu-Patrick, who died in 2012.
“It is my way of raising funds for the Snehal Sidhu-Patrick Memorial Fund, which provides financial assistance to differently abled students at University of Cambridge,” he says.
Shortly after Snehal’s death, Patrick signed up for and completed two Sanskrit courses and then headed to India to familiarise himself with the ancient history of the country of her birth.
He then returned and began The History of India, which has had 58 episodes so far, a rating of 4.5 stars on iTunes, and a dedicated cult following. It’s easy to see why.
As Patrick walks the listener through myths and dynasties starting from 600 BC, the usual suspects (Guptas, Mauryas, Kushans) figure, but fascinating episodes revolve around the otherwise little-known people. Like the merchant guilds of ancient India, whom most kings trusted more than their own courtiers, and where even Shudras ostracised by the caste system could wield power.
Or the episode on how the Great Wall of China transformed India, a retelling of Chinese invasions through the ages. And a recent series on ancient Indian music, which reveals that India had a repertoire of songs for every occasion — including gambling!
“People do have strong feelings about the show,” Patrick admits, when asked if he’s criticised for his very British pronunciation of Sanskrit names and verses. “But most of it is constructive. I have an ‘errata’ section where I correct my mistakes. There are so many, it’s not been updated in a while,” he chuckles.
What: The History of India