Welcome to India (BBC Two) may have a travelogue title, but the programme showed a very different side. Shameful for those of us who have returned from the historic cities of Rajasthan, gushing about the richness of Indian culture, this was the reality – a modern-day Dickensian insight, immediate and disturbing.
The first episode focused mainly on two young men, doing their best to survive in a crowded world. Both Kaale and Rajesh were blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit; Kaale was a gold panner, a latter-day alchemist scouring the filthy streets of Kolkata for particles of gold dust which would then be bound together using mercury and nitric acid. It was hard work, but nothing compared to what Kaale put himself through later as he was forced to scour the sewers. Watching out for snakes and scorpions, Kaale discovered that where there’s muck there’s brass, and eventually scraped together enough money to escape his Fagin-like ghetto and rent a small room of his own.
On a beach in Mumbai, father of two Rajesh was trying to service his debts by serving alcohol illegally. He was a good middle-class boy who had, fatally, made a love match to a girl of a lower caste and been banished by his parents to a life of itinerant hardship. Life threw everything at Rajesh; council security guards, slick-haired moneylenders, bulldozers on a mission to tear up his family’s makeshift home. But by the end, government elections were imminent and the authorities had more urgent preoccupations: Rajesh was ecstatic at the temporary respite. “Now I’m at peace,” he said. – Review by www.telegraph.co.uk