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Mark Tully: India needs great steps to realise its potential

Journalist-author Mark Tully (left) with N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, “The Hindu”,at the launch of his book “Non-Stop India” in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo: R. Ragu

Journalist-author Mark Tully (left) with N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, “The Hindu”,at the launch of his book “Non-Stop India” in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Journalist-author Mark Tully's new book tempers diehard optimism about the country's future as a global leader with a clear perspective on the many things it needs to address to reach that position.

In Chennai on Tuesday for the launch of “Non-Stop India” under the auspices of Penguin Books India and the Madras Book Club, Mr. Tully, who has worked, lived and travelled in India for over four decades, says his latest book allowed the people featured in it to tell their story rather than his “pushing opinions in.”

In doing so, Mr. Tully was consciously avoiding what he deemed a failing of some journalists in thinking that the stories they wrote belonged to them when actually they belonged to the people they reported on.

Participating in a conversation with N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, Mr. Tully explained that the book also reflected the many years of his journalistic experience — mostly as Delhi Bureau Chief of the BBC — in being “grey” as he believed that there are two sides to every question and had to avoid the other journalistic pitfall of presenting only one side of the story.

One of the three main points about the book he wanted to convey was that it was important that India, and the world, recognised that it would require great steps for the nation to realise its potential — the “jugaad” trick could have a downside and the “chalta hai” attitude would simply not do. The others related to the “heresies” that there was pretty much anything that the private sector could deliver, and underestimation of the importance of good governance.

Pressed by Mr. Ram for elaboration of the “jugaad” trait in Indians, especially on how it differed from E.M. Forster's reading of the mysterious Indian muddle, Mr. Tully said “jugaad” was an activity— an often helpful attitude — whereas a muddle was something that exists.

Time-travelling back to the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, Mr. Tully said while he condemned the act — he had conveyed as much to L.K. Advani in Ayodhya at that time — he still believed that India would not be swept off its feet by religious fundamentalism or go the Belfast or Cyprus way. Noting that even at the bitter height of Partition, India did not slip into becoming a Hindu nation, Mr. Tully said Hinduism in fact had a lot to do with India's pluralism.

Excessive secularism, which feeds the fire of people who like to present India as a country that does not respect its majority, is just as dangerous as religious fundamentalism, Mr. Tully said.

Mr. Tully, who in his new book has written as perceptively about the Tatas as about the assertive, self-confident Dalits of contemporary India, said he was struck by the idea of building communities in villages as an effective check on corruption, which could not thrive without collusion.

According to Mr. Tully, measuring a country's well-being by its GDP almost on an everyday basis was a very narrow and misleading way of assessment. It would also be un-Indian and un-Gandhian for India to aspire to be the greatest power on earth — it should rather aim to become a country that provides everyone opportunity to develop his/her talents and show to the rest of the world that there was a better way to achieve growth.

In spite of having written a handful of books, Mr. Tully still regards himself as a reluctant author. His true love is radio broadcasting, he said.

Kamini Mahadevan, Consultant Editor, Penguin Books India, and S.R. Madhu from the Madras Book Club participated.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 1:13:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mark-tully-india-needs-great-steps-to-realise-its-potential/article2712632.ece

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