On an upcoming travel documentary series called ‘India Direct’ on BBC World News, Rajan Datar a notable travel show presenter explores the ‘hidden’ gems of India. Rajan has been the host of ‘The Travel Show’ – BBC World News’ flagship travel program. For 6 years, he has travelled to over 50 countries on five continents. In November 2012, he was named the Broadcast Travel Journalist of the Year 2012 at the Business Travel Awards ceremony in London.
A massive travel enthusiast, Rajan tracks the changing face of India against a backdrop of unchanging natural wonders, and cross the entire sub-continent – from Gujarat in the west to Assam in the east – along one of the longest railway lines in the country. He examines the historical sites, natural wonders and hidden gems along the way.
In this two-part special for ‘India Direct’ he’ll be exploring the diverse communities, histories and traditions that form the constantly changing map of India. He begins his journey in the far western state of Gujarat. He also discovers the barren beauty of the Rann of Kutch. He takes a tour to the border with Pakistan, which has become a tourist spectacle in itself. Rajan also visits the remote north-east of the country, which borders Bangladesh (as well as Tibet, Burma and Bhutan).
He has presented and directed Country Direct series – half hour special travelogue documentaries on BBC World News. In 2012 the 12 travelogues included Brazil, Japan, Canada and Ukraine. In 2013 his trips included Egypt, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Lifestyle Potpourri talks to the traveler about his breathtaking experiences.
What is so beautiful about traveling?
Meeting new people, seeing new places, and experiencing different cultures; but then, having the wonderful realization that we all have so much in common no matter how different our life circumstances might seem, is the best part about traveling! What I appreciate particularly is how sense of humor translates no matter where you are in the world.
When did you realize, travelling was your true calling?
I think whether I wanted it or not, travelling has always been part of my life since I was a child. My parents moved homes many times, and across continents – my father was a computer engineer during the fledgling years of the industry, when a computer with the processing power of a smartphone would occupy a whole room! Then travel kept landing in my lap. My first presenting job in TV was an independent travel program for younger people called ‘Rough Guide to …’. And then a band I have been in since my early twenties became popular in Spain and for a few years, the British Council took us on trips to various countries around the world to play – including India. I honestly didn’t really seek out a globe-trotting life, but it’s wonderful and I’m addicted to it.
If not a travel show presenter, what would you have been?
I would love to have been a film director (and I did train as a director for a while at the BBC before presenting came along); but I guess the one that was most obvious was a current affairs journalist (which I did for seven years and could always return to if anybody would have me). Outside the media, maybe an academic – Professor Datar would have delighted my Mum!
Tell us about ‘India Direct’.
We try and explore lesser- known parts of the country, outside the so-called Golden Triangle; and to mark the 70th anniversary of Independence and Partition. We go to the extreme west of India – to Kutch in Gujarat, which borders Sindh in Pakistan and then to Assam and Meghalaya in the North-East. Along the way, we encounter herdsmen, folk musicians, female lion rangers, bridge builders, the Shillong Chamber Choir, the monks of Majuli Island and the ‘Forest man of India’ amongst others…Phew!
What was your take-away from the entire experience?
In the more remote areas of India, a sense of community is still very powerful and tradition binds people together. People are incredibly resourceful in extreme situations like monsoon-afflicted areas in the North-East and desert areas in the far west. And of course, how welcoming and hospitable Indian people are generally, which I knew from my own family background anyway.
You have travelled across the world. Where do you love being the most?
I have a real soft spot for Latin America – and I really liked Vietnam and Sri Lanka. I would like to see more African counties and also go to Beirut one day.
Tell us about your top three travel survival tips.
Sense of humor, research beforehand and take good music and headphones, and a great novel to relax. And to get to know a place take public transport whenever possible and see some live music.
How did you get into the space of broadcasting and BBC?
I trained as a radio journalist with the BBC and then as a trainee TV producer; then I worked for a news program called Newsnight for the BBC and a business documentary series. Then along came The Travel Show.
What are the best things about your job?
Variety, learning about new cultures and unpredictability.
Define a usual day in your life.
See above – there isn’t one! But if we’re filming it involves usually waking up in the dark, being out on the road filming all day and then crashing out very late.
Define a true traveler.
Somebody who doesn’t make a journey but allows the journey to make them.
- March 25: 9 am & 7 pm
- March 26: 12 pm
- March 29: 2.30 pm
- March 30: 9 am
- April 4: 9 am
- April 12: 9 am
- April 14: 9 am
You can also watch it on bbc.com/travelshow