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‘Desi Stones and Bones’: an informative series about India’s prehistory


Anupama Chandrasekaran’s fledgling podcast is all “about ancient humans and fossils in India”

Who among us has not played with a fascination for fossils, those mysterious memories left in stone and peat, calling up the idea of a richer, less human-infested planet and the “ginormous” beasts that roamed it? Hollywood may have romanticised the deep past, and most certainly stoked the passion of six-year-olds, but it is to the many dedicated detectives of the earth that we owe the gradual unravelling of the histories hidden in its often inscrutable layers.

Some of these tales are deftly woven into 20-minute audio stories in Anupama Chandrasekaran’s fledgling podcast (six episodes and counting) Desi Stones and Bones, a series described on the web site as being “about ancient humans and fossils in India”. Kickstarted this February with an interview with Indica author and prehistoria inquisitor Pranay Lal, Chandrasekaran’s travels and reporting have yielded episodes that traverse the dry expanse of the Deccan Plateau to the coastal edges of Tamil Nadu. She speaks to veterans such as the Lucknow-based Professor Ashok Sahni (whom she describes as the “sensei” of Indian palaeontology) as well as young archaeologists like Jinu Koshy and fossil hunters like Vishal Verma whose joy in discovering the puzzle pieces of our prehistory comes through in their conversations. Each of the episodes is a well-packaged vignette that allows us to share the excitement of these discoveries, representing significant breakthroughs in our understanding of plant, animal and human life millions of years ago.

Moment of predation

My personal favourite, titled ‘The Last Supper,’ literally sets in stone the moment of predation, when a “limbless reptile crunched into dinosaur eggs to slurp out its (sic) contents”. She takes us to Nagpur to meet geologist Dhananjay Mohabey who talks about his discovery, in 1982, of a set of fossilised eggs of a herbivorous dinosaur, the Titanosaurus, and explains how they found the remains of snake vertebrae within this complex of bones — a species labeled Sanajeh indicus. The story then moves to a laboratory in Michigan, where Mohabey’s collaborator Jeff Wilson helped fill in the details of this 67-million-year-old saga. “This is one case where you can see the predator-prey relationship…it’s a rare case where you find this kind of evidence...,” says another expert, Guntapalli Veeraraghavendra Prasad.

For the Chennai-based Chandrasekaran, the podcast is a labour of love, painstakingly recorded and scripted to bring all the drama and significance of discovery to the listener. She works alone, carting her audio equipment around and using a commercial studio to record narration, refusing to abide by the tyranny of a deadline. She also produces her own artwork (and photographs) to complement each episode, detailed sketches that put the information into perspective. “I want to work on stories that bring me joy, that give me goosebumps,” she explains. Her focus is on using the audio format to the fullest, giving the listener a sense of being on the ground with her, with all the noise and bustle of say, a railway station in Lucknow or a street in Nagpur. “I don’t want to produce just another blabbercast,” she quips. One can see the growth over the series, with the narration gradually becoming more polished and less self-conscious.

Being an independent podcaster has its challenges, though, discoverability being among them. “It has not picked up to a great level,” she admits, although she’s received shout-outs from listeners across the world who have been looking for diverse Indian content. For now, all six episodes may be found on the podcast website and on Spotify.

The Hyderabad-based writer, academic and neatnik blogs at

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 7:53:03 AM |

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