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My 5 favourite podcasts this holiday season

Winter, even without the cold, is a special time of the year. As a kid in Delhi, the months from October through December were rife with family birthdays, anniversaries, Diwali, Children's Day, annual visits from our grandparents, and Christmas – all of which involved food and cake and people. It's different now; I've moved away, and things changed, but the seasonal feeling of warmth and cosiness and taking stock of the year remains. I'm going to start watching and reading and baking Christmas-y things soon, but this year, there's one more thing I'm adding to the traditions: uplifting podcasts.

I'm new to this. For some inexplicable reason, I had never listened to a podcast until a couple of months ago, when I read on a friend's blog that she uses them to brighten up her chores. Cooking and cleaning can be repetitive and dull, and though I sometimes listen to music or make a call while doing them, it always felt like they were taking too long. But stories and conversations in my ears? What a revelation. I actually look forward to this time for myself now, and I can't believe I didn't realise that it could be a fun, inspiring and/or productive use of my time (and my fiancĂ© is thrilled that I'm finally putting the bluetooth headphones to use). As a newbie, I just tried searching for themes I'm interested in to find new podcasts, and here are some that I can't get enough of, that bring comfort and joy and all the feels – in the order that I discovered them. 


I watched all nine seasons of The Office for the very first time this year. I know. But I think I could probably appreciate and connect with certain aspects of it better now that I've worked in an actual office after years of remote work. Its humour and human-ness balances perfectly with the cringe-y and the bizarre (could you ever really recover from finding your stapler encased in jell-o?)

Listening to Office Ladies with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey is giving me an insight into so many more layers and details that I never would have thought of. I don't mean the little background catches or stuff that a fan who has watched the show multiple times would notice – though there is plenty of that enriching the conversations – but rather the nuances of the actors and the writers injecting emotion into a line, the camera finding a moment no one planned, the stories behind specific props or hairstyles, the improvisations, and the immensely creative, collaborative, positive process that working on this show seems to have been. Everyone on the podcast brims with warmth and enjoyment as they relive the journey, making it a real pleasure to listen to.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text 

I didn't really expect to go looking for a Harry Potter podcast. While I never thought the series was perfect, like any work of art or literature, it did hold a special place in my life. But with J. K. Rowling increasingly putting out her misguided, ill-informed, and snarky views into the world, it felt like my memories of the books were becoming tainted. I don't believe that a work can or should be separated from its creator, and we do need to question and complicate it – because without that, we essentially ensure that there are no consequences for the words or actions that we are ethically or morally opposed to – but this is so much harder to do with a work that already held a huge place in our life. It's so much harder to condemn or let go of it as a new work that we are yet to form a relationship with.  

Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile address this dilemma in one of their more recent episodes, Owl Post Edition: J.K. Rowling and Transphobia with Jackson Bird in a nuanced and thoughtful manner that characterises all the episodes. But I only listened to this episode recently; I started the podcast from the first season, the first book, beginning at the beginning. The first thing that drew me in is how much each episode – explored through a single theme, ranging from commitment and curiosity to legacy and white privilege – confronts me with ideas I had never thought of before. Who thinks that Aunt Marge has great boundaries, or of viewing the difference in the wizarding and Muggle worlds through food? Consider listening to this podcast if you ever enjoyed the Harry Potter books, even if you're unsure where to go from here.

There Are Other Ways: Conversations About Living Life a Little Differently

This podcast doesn't (yet) have hundreds of episodes, but each of them feels like drinking a hot beverage on a cold but calm day (couldn't resist). Host Fiona Barrows chats with her guests, most of whom have creative businesses or practices, about their journey and how and why they chose to quit the rat race and pursue a different way of life. 

Even as I contemplate my own work and journey and attempt to revive creatively, these conversations reassure and remind me that there are so many ways of being and doing. We just have to find what works for us and keep evolving – whether it's through blogging about our everyday, photographing family life, creating gardens that support our mental well-being, or enjoying candle-making so much with our kids that it turns into a business. 

I Love This Thing So Fricking Much

Don't you enjoy being around people whose eyes light up when they talk about – and are given the space to talk about – the things they love? That's what listening to this podcast feels like. Described as a "podcast about passion", it always lifts me up to hear people, strangers at that, discuss one thing that they care about most with the host, Sophie. 

I often start my day with this podcast – the short episodes are perfect while I make coffee – and not only do they make me happy, I also gain new knowledge and perspectives about all kinds of things, from cryptozoology, the vaquita porpoise, and British Romanticism to knitting, juggling, and breakfast!

The Memory Palace

I am thrilled to have discovered this podcast during one of my "search for random terms I like" sprees. I thought the synopsis was interesting, but I really didn't know what I was getting into because the episode descriptions and titles don't reveal much. So I went in cold into Episode 168: The Travelling Stones one lazy afternoon, and a couple of minutes in, I felt my heart race in anticipation, stunned by the unexpected turn the tale had taken. 


The Memory Palace is described as a podcast of "short, surprising stories of the past" (with amazing background music), masterfully written and narrated by host Nate DiMeo – a former public radio producer, storyteller, and artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2016/17. Definitely check it out if you enjoy lesser-known bits of history about places, incidents, objects and characters told in words that pretty much sparkle.

Comments

  1. All of these sound so lovely. I haven't listened to any of these (except Office Ladies Pod), and I'm excited to be adding some of these to my rotation. Thanks! Keep adding to the list please. If you're watching The Crown, then the official Netflix Crown Podcast is also amazing to listen to. I started listening to the Harry Potter audio-book-podcast thing that Spotify's been doing, but it got me right annoyed with the characters for being so nosy and not following the rules! So I abandoned that podcast to retain my warm, glowy, childhood memories of HP!

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