Melvyn's newsletter - The Bhagavad Gita - 31/03/2011

Bhagavad Gita illustration


I was greatly relieved just to get through this morning's programme. I woke up at about ten past five, forcing myself to remember what the words 'karma' and 'ishvara' and 'bhakti' and 'yoga' (in the old sense) meant. I did not make a very great fist of it. I then concentrated on the three tests that Krishna had given to Arjuna and stumbled on the third point. It was time to get up. When I got in to work I looked through the notes again and it was all foreign and exotic, but it began to glimmer in my consciousness (if I can be so bold at that time of the morning) that there were profound similarities. There was a great cyclone swirl of religions at that time in India and to the East. More dramatically to the West, where a lot of what was said about Hinduism seemed to me to set off alarm bells or echoes in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Thanks to the three contributors, much, much was revealed. It continues to astound me the clarity which these people can bring to what appear to me, when I'm swotting up, to be complex topics beyond my ken and certainly very difficult to explain in a succinct and lucid way. But they did it.

After this, Herakles came up to say his final goodbye and hand us over to his successor. His work on the website and the podcast has literally put In Our Time on the map and as I said last week - but not forcefully enough - we are massively indebted to him.

Then down to the office in Poland Street and we have a new dog! This time it is a researcher who has got a dog. It has become an epidemic, threatening to be a pandemic, in our tiny office that everybody gets a dog. They're all little. They're all irresistible. None of them take up much space - yet! The meeting was about a series we're doing for BBC2 on class and culture (we're still looking for a title).

Off then for a long overdue haircut and then to the House of Lords to have lunch with a producer with whom I worked for more than twenty years, and then to a meeting with Tom Morris, the producer, of course, of In Our Time, where we spent several hours, or was it minutes?, working out the next eight programmes. One of them concerns a crucial battle in 1066 in this country which was not the Battle of Hastings.

I spoke last week of London becoming a village. As if the word was father to the deed, it was much more of a village today. A few days ago, I was met by two black, bounding, velvety dogs, quite large. The owner in the far distance shouted - as owners of large dogs always do - 'never mind, they are very friendly'. It turned out to be Jeremy Paxman and he turned out to be right. We talked about his crucial deadline for a book of what is to be a series. And, lo and behold, this morning, as I was going from the barber's to the Lords, outside the Athenaeum I passed Jeremy Paxman once again. Never seen him on a London street before. He was just as breezy, just as cheerful and just as tall.

Before that I'd bumped into somebody called Charlie George. (It would take far too long. He was an Arsenal hero for many, many years.) We chewed the fat about Arsenal for a short time. It's a bit of a short story this season. And later in the day, on my way through Trafalgar Square to say farewell to Jonathan Levi, who is leaving ITV and his position as Head of Arts and Popular Culture to go independent, there was Paul Joyce, a tremendous filmmaker with whom I'd worked, but not enough, over the years. So more and more a village it becomes.

And now as I dictate this, I'm on my way to a charity dinner; that is to say a dinner for a cause I support.

That seems a bit of a weak ending. Oh yes, I've discovered a new author, Christopher Buckley, American, I do recommend his novels, terrific.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

PS: Walked through St James's Park where the daffodils are wonderfully strong and stout and trumpeting away under a marvellous spring morning. Yet again it is crowded with French teenagers. There's something about St James's Park and French teenagers which must enter into the area of elective affinity or magnetic attraction. Maybe they want to look at palaces they once could have occupied. They are a lovely bunch. There's one young lad with his arm around his girlfriend, singing away, and then he broke into 'la, la, la' and I recognised the tune. He must have been singing 'I love London in the springtime ...'

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