Review: BBC Radio 4 - Out of the Darkness - The Triumph of Nelson Mandela

I have come to like and appreciate podcasts of lately - so much that on many a topics I would rather listen to one than watch a documentary or movie. Of course it can't match the experience of reading a book, but nonetheless serves the purpose - of keeping you well informed without having to burn your eyes out in front of a brightly lit display. BBC's iPlayer website is colourful and neat, though with a lot of options which might confuse a newcomer.

Nelson Mandela passed away 3 days ago and there has been a flurry of activity around the web. Though most of the articles remember his struggle against the apartheid regime of South Africa, few like Foreign Policy took a not-so-enchanted view of him. All the facts which Foreign Policy mentions must be true, however the twisted interpretations can easily be dispelled as Western-oriented anathematized view of anyone who is "in touch" with its 'enemies'. The article mentions Mandela was in touch with terrorists and then I can't help myself cringe reading the names that follow: Castro, Gaddafi and Arafat! Terrorists? These men? Noam Chomsky's balanced, all may not agree on the use of that adjective, approach uproots and criticizes this traumatic lopsided view often and keeps doing so with full gusto (keep reading Withered Papyrus for a review of his Hegemony or Survial which has been pending since long).

The BBC Radio 4 podcast , The Triumph of Nelson Mandela, starts with the growing of Nelson Mandela amongst the Thembu people as Rolihlahla, "troublemaker". One of his sisters, Mabel Timakwe,  recalls how despite of belonging to the Thembu Royal Family, they did not have any belongings and "life was very hard at home. But we had no possessions at home". Then it moves onto the childhood of Madiba and how he finally ended up in a missionary school and lot of his gentlemanly skills are attributed to this 'British style' education in the podcast. The young and youthful days of Mandela are retold with an evened out approach - first detailing his non-violent approach in the ANC to manufacture freedom for his people, but then later, even though for a short while, resorting to violent means for reclaiming their rights and the chasing of the Black Pimpernel. Then comes the famous Rivonia Trial and the long 27 years of incarceration. Somewhere else on a BBC blog the women of his life are written about in fair detail. The trials and tribulations of a jailed life and the daunting task of reconciling with the Whites prove how great a man of mettle he was. His adoption of violent means during the early years need to be seen in this context before passing on comments like Foreign Policy did. This is not to say that he was perfect and beyond criticism.

A song by Special AKA for Mandela

A podcast worth listening to for knowing who Mandela was and what he stood for. Serious history readers however will not be disappointed as it will give them access to previously ignored pieces of information hidden away from the glare of media, like Ahmed Kathrada, an Indian Muslim immigrant who was with Mandela in the Robben Island prison for more than 18 years who speaks of his experiences. The melodious songs juxtaposed in the background add a chimerical effect; and contrary to what some might expect - BBC podcasts are not at all monotonous, they are full of variations in sound and tempo. Mandela served not just as an African gem, but as someone who could be looked upon as a shining example of someone who was ready to die for his ideal - freedom for others, always serving as a servant of the people.


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