Celebrating Britain's 101 Most Influential Asians 2021

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George Alagiah


FOR someone who got news that his cancer had spread, and on top of that he had contracted Covid, George Alagiah is in a relaxed, positive and reflective mood.

We are speaking via Zoom and he is not in the BBC studio. His granddaughter, whom he clearly adores, is asleep in the next room, and he is thankful for his life.

“I got diagnosed in 2014, I had treatment for 18 months, and I had a couple of years clear,” he recalls.

“It came back in 2017. Basically, it’d never gone, but what happened this year was a bit of a shock. We’d always restricted it to the bowel, liver, that kind of area. Anyway, what happened this year was that it went to the lungs, which is where it is now, among other places.

“So here I am pootling along, thinking, well, we’ve got it in check. I mean, it’s still there, it still shows up on the scans, but you know, the chemo’s working and it’s not growing. Then suddenly you’re told it’s gone to your lungs, and in some ways that was harder to take.”

Apart from being on our screens reading the BBC 1 main news programmes, in 2020 Alagiah was publicly recognised by being shortlisted for the Society of Authors award. His debut novel, The Burning Land was considered for the Paul Torday category, which recognises a first novel by a writer over 60.

“People say, why did you go into fiction? To me, it wasn’t such a huge leap, actually, because all writing is about looking for the truth.

But there are just sometimes limits to the work that you and I do. If you don’t have the facts, if you haven’t got the interview, you can’t tell the story well.

“Fiction allowed me

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