When I ring the bell at Mark Tully’s house in South Delhi, a voice calls out, “kaun hai?” Assuming it’s a neighbour, I begin to identify myself in Hindi, when the gate swings open and I find myself face-to-face with the very blonde, very British Gillian Wright, Tully’s colleague and partner of three decades. “I’m here to interview Mr Tully,” I say, when I’ve recovered from the surprise. “Oh! Does he know you’re coming?” Ms Wright seems just as surprised. And the absent-mindedness of the man who’s brought India to Indians, travelling to parts of the country many of us wouldn’t think to go, endears him all the more to me. Over the next hour and a half, he would chide me for being more familiar with English than my mother tongue, get flustered when I partly blame the book he co-wrote with Ms Wright for making me want to return to India, ask me nearly as many questions as I ask him, and speak about religion, jugaar, language, radio, teachers, high-handed police and...oh, yes, also his book Non-Stop India, which was my excuse for meeting him.
There are a lot of allusions to your 1991 book No Full Stops in India in Non-Stop India. You refer to that book in the cover, in the conclusion, and even in interviews. But I thought it was rather more like India In Slow Motion – the travelling, the talk of corruption in the system...
Yes, I think there is a similarity to India in Slow Motion. I think with No Full Stops in India, there was probably a more definite theme, the theme of preserving Indian culture. But I do think there is a link between the two, because of the twenty years’ gap between the two, and there are sort of bits in the book where I do try and draw out the difference between what is happening now and what was happening then.
You know, when No Full Stops was written, India was still pretty much in the doldrums, and internationally, it was written off really, and not many people were interested in its economy. And since then, the whole India story has taken off. But I certainly understand what you say, that it’s more like India in Slow Motion.
Image: Book cover of Mark Tully's Non-Stop India