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January 20, 2017

Zee JLF Conversations: Mark Tully

Text by Huzan Tata

“The feeling that you’ve seen history first-hand is really quite something.”

On returning to his roots
“When I left priest training, I was drifting and got into a job with an NGO. I was later in the personnel department of a media house and later an offer of a job in India came up. I was born here, lived here, and wanted to come back. From an administrative job, I sort of morphed into being a political journalist. It was accidental, but wonderful!”

The joy of being a foreign correspondent
“It is great to be like an old soldier and say ‘I was there when the Babri Masjid was torn down; I was in Punjab during Operation Bluestar; I saw Rajiv Gandhi on the day he was assassinated…’ The feeling that you’ve seen history first-hand and interviewed people like Indira Gandhi, Ravi Shankar, Amitabh Bachchan is really quite something…”

On his love for India
“One of the main things is the great personal happiness I’ve had here. I’ve been treated with enormous generosity and respect, far beyond what I’ve desired. I love the colours, the beauty – though I wish it was better preserved, the spectacular natural views.”

On ‘home’
“Neither England nor India is exclusively my home. When I’m in India, I don’t feel like I’m abroad, I don’t feel like I’m not at home. I go back to Britain as I still do radio shows there, and I’m always happy to return there too. I know virtually nothing of the rest of the world! All through my career I’ve mainly commuted between these two countries.”

On sensationalism
“Sometimes the subjects are so trivial, that the sensationalism is depressing and uninteresting. I would like to see a TV channel coming out to break this. It would be great to see more news documentaries, and better, straightforward news bulletins.”

On his favourite form of broadcast
“Without a doubt, it’s radio. It is an underestimated medium in this country. If you’re a good radio broadcaster, every person will think you’re talking to them individually. Once, a lady who follows my show told me, ‘I think you’re my friend’. I think that’s a real tribute to radio.

On his bookshelf
“I like fiction and short stories very much, and I’m also interested in books on religion, science and history. I like Indian history from the British Raj onwards, as well as northern British history. I’ve recently gained an interest in books on the World Wars and military histories.”

What the future holds
“I do think I would rather stop working now, but the trouble is that if I do, I would rather not live in Delhi but in a forest where it’s more peaceful and meditative. But my partner doesn’t want to leave Delhi, and I don’t want to leave her! My book
India’s Unending Journey has a lot in it about fate, and how we should see our lives as governed by it. I think I have taken that thought too far. I’m waiting to see what happens, and will wait right till the very end.”     

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