Calling from London, Talking to India: South Asian Networks at the BBC and the Case of G. V. Desani

  • Emma Bainbridge
  • Florian Stadtler


In the 1940s, the Indian section of the BBC was an important focal point for South Asian writers, intellectuals and their British counterparts.1 As such, it became ‘a complicated network of mutually creative cross- cultural contacts and interfaces’, fostering important creative exchanges, which resulted in many lasting friendships and affiliations.2 More importantly, the collaboration of British and South Asian writers, broadcasting specifically to India for Indian audiences, challenged paradigms of centre and periphery, highlighting the existence of more complex relationships and connections in the imperial metropolis. The background to the career of writer and broadcaster G. V. Desani is a case in point. The variety of his outputs and the ways he sought to carve out a niche in Britain’s literary landscape of the 1940s leads us to consider the nature of his relationship with the BBC in the context of his search for cultural acceptance. By focusing on the Indian Section more broadly, and on Desani in particular, this chapter will explore how the BBC became a hub for cultural encounter and political debate, despite its clearly propagandist brief in wartime.


Indian Section Imperial Institute Cultural Encounter South Asian Language Collect Essay 
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  1. 1.
    See Susheila Nasta, Home Truths: Fictions of the South Asian Diaspra in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Rubani Ranasinha, ‘South Asian Broadcasters in Britain and the BBC: Talking to India (1941–1943)’, South Asian Diaspora 2: 1 (March 2010), 57–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 4.
    For a discussion of Orwell’s and Anand’s relationship at the BBC see Susheila Nasta, ‘Sealing a Friendship: George Orwell and Mulk Raj Anand at the BBC (1940–43)’, Wasafiri 26: 4 (December 2011), 14–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 6.
    George Orwell (ed.), Talking to India ( London: Allen & Unwin, 1943 ), p. 7.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Wilfrid Goatman, ‘Many Tongues –- One Voice: 2, Programmes for India’, London Calling 281 (25 February 1945), p. 5.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Marie Gillespie, Alasdair Pinkerton, Gerd Baumann and Sharika Thiranagama, ‘South Asian Diasporas and the BBC World Service: Contacts, Conflicts, and Contestations’, South Asian Diaspora 2:1 (March 2010), 3–25, p. 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 19.
    George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 3, ‘As I Please’, 1943–1945, ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (Harmondsworth: Penguin with Secker & Warburg, 1970), p. 72.Google Scholar
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    Harold Brighouse, ‘New Novels’, Manchester Guardian, 30 April 1948, p. 3.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Mulk Raj Anand, ‘London as I see it’, Wasafiri 26: 4 (December 2011), 19–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 33.
    G. V. Desani, Hali (London: Saturn Press, 1950), p. 38.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Emma Bainbridge, Florian Stadtler 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma Bainbridge
  • Florian Stadtler

There are no affiliations available

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