“My interest in India has become a lifelong passion, which I am now nurturing through books and radio”
–says Sir Mark Tully, a British writer, author, former bureau chief of BBC, journalist and an expert on India. Sir William Mark Tully, popularly known as Mark Tully was a household name in most of India for his quality commentaries about happenings in India for many years….way back in 1970s. Former bureau chief of BBC, New Delhi, he held the position for 20 years. Tully was awarded the Padmashree in 1992 and in 2005 he received the Padma Bhushan. In a recent interview with him, Smita Dwivedi discovers his eternal love for India & Indian things; radio; his reasons for continuing living in India and why ink & paper books will always charm intellectuals. Tully was born in Tollygunge, British India in 1935 and spent early years of his childhood in India before leaving country for higher education at age of nine. And later when he joined the BBC in 1964, he again moved back to India in 1965 to work as the India correspondent. He covered all major incidents in South Asia during his tenure, ranging from Indo-Pakistan conflicts, Bhopal gas tragedy, Operation Blue Star (for the subsequent assassination of Indira Gandhi, anti-Sikh riots), assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to the demolition of Babri Masjid. Before resigning from BBC in July 1994, he presented an episode of BBCs Great Railway Journeys “Karachi to The Khyber Pass” traveling by train across Pakistan. Since 1994 he has been working as a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in New Delhi. He is currently the regular presenter of the weekly BBC Radio 4 programme Something Understood.
In companionship with books!
Mark TullyAccording to Tully, one must be an avid reader first, before being an author or writer. On asking about his journey with books he added, “Unlike most of the people of my fraternity, I started enjoying book lately. But, now I read quite a lot. I don’t use any devices to read book, I love hard copies. Now many people send me manuscripts to write foreword and I am very bad in saying NO. So, I have to read a lot of books. My keen interest in spirituality and religion keeps me busy reading and buying many books to read.”
Being an author!
Tully’s first book on India Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle was published in the year 1985, it was co-authored with his colleague in BBC Delhi, Satish Jacob; his next book Raj to Rajiv: 40 Years of Indian Independence was co-authored with Zareer Masani, and was based on a BBC radio series of the same name. In the US, this book was published under the title India: Forty Years of Independence. Tully’s only work of fiction was The Heart of India, which was published in 1995. He later wrote India’s Unending Journey in 2008 and India: The Road Ahead in 2011, published in India under the title Non-Stop India. In the area of religion, Tully has authored An Investigation into The Lives of Jesus in 1996 to accompany the BBC series of the same name, and Mother in 1992 on Mother Teresa. And No Full Stops in India, one of Mark Tully’s best-known books, was published in 1992. Sharing his experiences about being an author, for so many years now, he added, “I never wrote manuscripts in short hand…I prefer expanded form of writing. My first book was fully complied on old typewriter. And I have a privilege of exploring virgin lands of India. I experienced entire India, which helped a lot in bringing out my subsequent books. I travelled all over with my partner Gillian Wright.”
According to Tully, any thought, expression or knowledge when put in words is an inception of a new book, if taken seriously. “I have been making a programme for BBC Radio 4 called Something Understood. I make 30 such episodes a year, which are made in batches of six. I make three in India and the rest in the UK. It’s a discussion about matters, such as philosophy, poetry, religion, all sorts of things, but less in the rational field and more in the intuition field. So, I am writing something every day,” he added.
And sharing a story about his last published book titled Non-Stop India, he said, “A very talented editor came to see me and said she was interested in my programme and asked me why I didn’t write a book about the subjects I was covering on Something Understood. And that’s how it came about.”
Tully’s love for India and Indian is known world over. Most of his works are based on India. The books that he wrote on India share deep insight of a thoughtful man without being judgmental about customs, traditions, beliefs and ways of India and its people. On asking about the same he happily shared, “It’s my destiny to be in India and I have happily accepted it. I was born in India, in East Bengal, and spent nine to 10 years of my childhood here under the British Raj. I always felt peculiarly at home here. Almost all of My BBC career was spent here, so I do feel that it’s largely that I am meant to be here. And I have no plans to leave India as I am in love with the country.”
Message to all readers!
Being a veteran, Tully shared separate messages for publishers, authors and readers. To book publishing fraternity, he appealed, “I wish more of the books in the Indian languages were translated into English as there is some wonderful stuff. I feel that nowadays everybody is writing a book. It seems funny to me, I believe that one should never write a book, if there’s no reason to write it.”
And for readers, he added, “Buy more books and read more books as there is no substitute to good books. And charm of holding a book in hand and smell of ink and paper will always augment the process of book reading.”