I drove my car to Stanmore tube station; it was the first time I’d driven a car since my operation. I then took the Jubilee Line tube to Bond Street and walked the short distance to the BBC Radio 2 building just off Great Portland St.
My 11 o’clock appointment was to record ten short interviews on the Biblical Ten Commandments. The producer, Lamont Howie, wanted speakers from several different religions to comment from their own faith’s point of view. The programme was being co-ordinated by BBC Radio Stoke but was to be broadcast nationally by local BBC radio stations over ten weeks.
I had prepared my statements according to Lamont’s requirements: he wanted comments of between 10 seconds and a minute in length. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried to say something important with someone timing you, but it’s harder than you might imagine. I don’t find it too hard to speak on Krishna consciousness, but condensing our wonderful philosophy into concise, pithy statements – sound bites of siddhanta – that radio listeners will find appealing, that’s much more of a challenge!
There is a certain additional pressure sitting in a low light studio, no bigger than a WC, speaking into a microphone to someone 200 miles away while the clock is ticking. Lamont only had the studio for half an hour. I did the best I could.
I once saw a film of Srila Prabhupada speaking on the first verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam. There were no other students there and he is looking straight into the camera. I also understand that his introduction to the Bhagavad-gita was dictated to a tape recorder with no one else in the room. Krishna consciousness demands such a presence of mind that on any occasion you must be prepared to speak logically and concisely. Even if there is no one in front of us we must be prepared to speak convincingly.
Although most of us are practised in speaking at some length, there is even greater skill involved in speaking concisely. ‘The Absolute Truth spoken concisely is true eloquence,’ said Srila Prabhupada.
And if there are people in front of us, as there are most times, our presentation of the philosophy should make sense to first-time listeners, so the ideas must be in a logical sequence so that the listeners find themselves agreeing. The ideas must also be intelligent, and be regarded as intelligent, so that listeners don’t have to stretch their credulity too much.
Anyway, I filled up 25 minutes and then Lamont said: “Great! Now could you give me a summary of Hinduism – history, beliefs, practises, festivals and so on – in the remaining five minutes?” Again, I tried to oblige, and then, as quick as it had started, my recording session was over. I wait to hear of how much material will actually be used.
Afterwards, I walked up Mortimer St. and dropped in on Mahadyuti Das, then visited the temple for midday arati. Radha-Londonisvara, always looking beautiful, were wearing colourful silk pavitrams around their hands. These will be awarded to the devotees who distribute the most books during the month of December. After honouring a plate of maha-prasadam and some soup brought up to me from the restaurant, I returned home and then attended the condolence service for Harish Batra in the evening.