BBC’s Chief of Bureau New Delhi for 22 years and an author, the Indian-born Sir Mark Tully has developed the “gaze of an insider”, evident in his new book, Non-Stop India, published by Penguin India. The book, which covers a range of topics from Naxalites to tigers and the growing use of English, is a warning against complacency. Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Raintree Media and his remarks at the book launch.

Non-Stop India begins with the concept of ‘jugaar’ that Tully finds deeply ingrained in Indians, the attitude that everything will work itself out at the end. While he believes complacency is dangerous, Tully says, “I have come to have a strong conviction that life is 90% fate or luck or what have you and 10% freewill or our own doing. I often say to myself leave it to fate. Usually it turns out all right.”

He talks about the criticism of his book that he is not angry enough and is too soft on India. “Everything you do need not be critical, pugnacious and attacking. Journalism is not about me, it is the story of the person I am writing about. It is much better to let the people you meet speak.” 
Non-Stop India book launch at Landmark, Bangalore
Looking back over the years, Tully says, “The major turning point which held India back was Indira Gandhi’s version of bureaucratic socialism which she adopted as a way of differentiating herself from the Congress politicians who split from her, and appealing to the poor. The ending of the licence-permit raj was the beginning of the era of rapid growth. But that was not just a sudden turning point in 1991. Under Rajiv Gandhi, measures to relax the grip of the licence-permit raj were taken.”

“Today India’s ambition should be to become a country where everyone has enough. There is no need to have too much. The biggest misconception the world had of India was that it is irredeemably mired in poverty. It is now that India has joined the club of wealthy nations. It is extraordinary how images always swing from one extreme to the other, which is so un-Indian. India stands for the middle road,” he says. 
Sir Mark Tully
Non-Stop India is for Indians who want to see things in a slightly unusual light, to be shaken out of some of their certainties to question their views, and foreigners who may have so far seen a stereotyped India. There is a real possibility that Indians will pick up the baton of governance. I have tried to make the point that corruption is a symptom of bad governance and hope that my book will do something to convince Indians that corruption cannot be cured without an improvement in governance. I hope it will convince foreigners that the facile picture of India’s prospects, the picture which portrays India as motoring on a straight road to becoming the world’s largest economy, does not portray the whole truth. Yes there are grounds for optimism but there is a lot that needs to be done if India is to fulfil its potential.”

He explains, “The phenomenal role of NGOs, the rise of entrepreneurs after the end of the licence-permit raj, and the change in the attitude in the Dalit community are reasons to feel optimistic.” 

Sir Mark Tully at Landmark
On his books on religion, Tully says, “To me a life without belief in God seems to miss a whole element.”

As for his future he says, “At 76, I leave that in the hands of God. I am often asked whether I will continue to live in India. All I can say is I have no plans to go. If you say something will never happen in life it very soon does happen. As for professional prospects I can say that I would like to continue with my BBC Radio 4 programme, Something Understood.”

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

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