His biodata states he is an ‘Avantha Professor and Director at King’s India Institute’ at King’s College London, but the fact is that Sunil Khilnani has helped set the discourse of the day. His first book The Idea of India, written back in 1999, was a slim volume with a grand belief. As Amartya Sen wrote, it highlighted ‘the robustness and staying power of the secular idea of India’. Over the last 15 years, and especially recently, this ‘secular idea of India’ has been questioned—both literally and metaphorically—and has found prominent place in the arena of debate. This year, Khilnani has once again established his credentials as a leading public intellectual with his book Incarnations: India in 50 Lives. In this big book of little essays which accompanies a BBC Radio 4 series, Khilnani brings to life figures from Buddha to Annie Besant to Dhirubhai Ambani that are all around us but mute. To examine the lives he has chosen hold a mirror to the times we live in. His next book is a biography on Jawaharlal Nehru.