Book Review published in Freedom First Magazine No 538 April 2012India is a complex place There s some of everything here and it defies a simple definition You can t truly know it till you ve lived here Some have called it a muddle, some have called it incredible, others have called it shining Mark Tully calls it non stop Where others have used adjectives or nouns, Tully seems to use a verb, and this gives it a dynamic, vibrant quality, much like the cover of this book They say don t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I have to say, I did And I was both, pleased and disappointed by it.Mark Tully s reputation precedes him He s a veteran newsman of the old fashioned kind He believes in reporting news, not creating it He is understated and gentle, preferring to let the people speak for themselves a far cry from the often shrill pontificating that masquerades as news these days And this comes through in this quiet and understated book Tully writes in the introduction, All the institutions essential for a democracy to function are in place There are legislatures right down to the village level, elections, as I have said, are regularly held, there is a civil service, there are courts, the press is free Further there are politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers and journalists who know exactly what their responsibilities should be, and how their institutions should function Having lived in India for than forty years I have become affected by the widespread cynicism about governments and governance in this country But he remains optimistic about India s future because he believes that India will find a way to make existing institutions work the way they were meant to.The book is written in ten chapters that span the whole spectrum of what you read in the papers these days, from Dalits, to Naxals to the debate on English vs regional languages, community building initiatives to tigers Depending on the reader s interests, some chapters may be of interest than others The subjects are presented with the old fashioned reporter s motto of letting the people be heard They are interviews of people Tully and Gillian meet on their travels He doesn t insert himself into the narrative wherever possible, and other than framing questions, quotes the voices directly They speak, he listens, and he moves on to his next destination This makes for interesting and engaging reading because it isn t often these days that you get to know about original data that is gathered We are so bombarded with the rush to analyze and speculate and judge and offer solutions As you read through the chapters, you move from one village to another, with Tully telling you where you are to go next He s certainly not a bad guide to have Tully, after all is better informed about India than most of us, he has had a ring side seat to almost all major historical events in the country, by virtue of his being a foreigner, and I have been given to understand that he is a self effacing, good man Readers will have no problem letting themselves be taken through this book on a non stop tour of India with Tully as their capable guide One may suggest that he should have expanded the itinerary a bit Too much than half of the book is based in North India and this reflects the general tendency of the media to focus on north of the Vindhyas stories Like any journey, once in a way, the telling can get tedious, the writing is a bit uneven, but it is engaging enough to keep going.There s the slight problem of classifying this book is it a travel book, is it literature, is it academic, political, current events Is it analysis, reportage, storytelling Is it meant for students or those unfamiliar with India It is some of these, none of others, but finally, the answer came to me once again, as I stared at the cover It is, essentially, a book of folk tales stories of the land, real stories about real people told in the oral tradition And at this level it works wonderfully Chapters such as Caste Overturned and Building Communities for this reason work especially well Having said this, it is difficult to criticize the book Let me explain why I say that It s certainly not because I loved everything about it There s an old trick that anyone who s in management or married knows It s called taking the zing out of the argument It goes something like this I know you think I was insensitive yesterday but that was not my intention Well then, nobody can respond to that by telling you that you were insensitive yesterday They would be stating the obvious, something you already told them you knew Similarly, in his introduction, Tully says, The chapters in this book are all stories of my travels they are not analyses He says it s always difficult to write for two audiences And he says that there are difficulties writing prose when you ve been a radio journalist your whole life There goes the zing from any criticism I may have of this book.These, indeed, are the three main problems with the book But the way I see it, naming the beast does not make it disappear Tully is clearly self aware a good quality in anyone, especially a reporter But this does not let Tully off the hook It may have been perfectly acceptable for many journalists, some even well known ones But one holds somebody like Mark Tully to a higher standard From a veteran like him, at the age of 76, with his range of experience, one has higher expectations First, he says these are stories, not analyses But even read as stories, the story teller must offer something of himself If my grandmother tells me a story, I expect something of her in the telling, in the message, indeed in the analysis from her experiences, than if a younger sibling were to tell the same tale Does India need a sympathizer who tells a bland tale Being sympathetic does not mean being soft Tully is called an honorary Indian and yet retains that he is a foreigner With the best of both worlds, he should be brave enough to speak his mind and offer his insights into the stories he hears.As readers, we expect something of his wisdom, some analysis other than the refrain that becomes redundant by the end of the book If governance issues are resolved, India would be non stop Second, it is difficult to write for dual audiences One wants broad strokes, the other wants detail The Preface to the Indian Edition suggests that the main text is the same for both audiences Like Aesop s fable, when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one At many points, Indian readers will find that the book sinks into what I call the daal soup, naan bread category of narrative It is tedious to read through superfluous explanations of known items time and again and this does not ease up as the chapters progress So perhaps the chapters were meant to stand alone and be read in any order It is a little baffling why Tully would not have insisted that the publishers have the text modified for separate audiences This could easily have been fixed with a few smart copy editors on the job And third, the difficulty of writing prose While nobody is expecting literature from Tully, we certainly expect meat in his content There is a difference between the spoken and the written narrative and he must control, if not master, the media he presents in This would mean that he put of himself and his thoughts onto the written page Other than in the introduction, there s not much of Tully in this book The same aloofness that makes him an excellent radio reporter lets him down in print.So in the end, when you re done reading the book, there is a sense that something is missing Reading the chapters was like browsing through a solo exhibition in an art gallery Each painting is interesting on its own some are detailed, appealing than others But at the end of your walk through, you are left wondering what the theme was What was the artist trying to say Did he, in fact, want to say anything The key element that s missing in this narrative is the author s passion There s a reluctance to immerse into the landscape fully, and ultimately, this lack of critical engagement with the subject is what was truly disappointing about the book. Picked this up at the Varanasi airport and read throughout a month traveling in India I appreciated the many topics from religion to language to politics to agriculture and the environment and the unique complexities that conspire to make modern India what it is today I found it fascinating how many of the questions that arose as I traveled I only had to wait a chapter or two to find the answer in this book, as though the author anticipated what I might want to know about this bewildering and beguiling place it even confirmed that, yes, the word pajama did come to English from Hindi I thought the book was a bit slow going, but ultimately gave a good broad brushstrokes insider outsider perspective with lots of local stories and color that made sense for anyone visiting India for the first time I ve even recommended it to friends who live there The book may be too dry in the weeds for those who have not yet visited the country to put it into context. The book has managed to cover a wide variety of fields which have a huge impact on India s growth and development Although, the book has taught me a lot of new things but the stats given in the book are quite old for someone who is reading it or planning to read it, on the current date All and all, the book has been written after a lot of quality research and has given genuine insights about India in different fields and I would definitely recommend to give it a read. Mark Tully is known for his deep understanding of India At times you get a feeling that he is Indian than Indians In the book, Tully uses many current events to delve into the little known facets of the country s socio political landscape The book traces the fast moving changes in India, and true to the journalist that he is, he sources the insights from the very people who are driving the changes. About The Book Non Stop India The Much Anticipated Follow Up To The Bestselling No Full Stops In India Now Available In Paperback Poised To Become One Of The Major Economies Of The Twenty Firstcentury, India At Times Seems Unmindful Of Questions On Thesustainability Of Such Growth And Its Effect On The Stability Ofthe Nation Veteran Journalist And Bestselling Author Of No FullStops In India, Mark Tully Travels Across India To Turn Thespotlight On The Everyday Concerns Of The Common Man In Areas Suchas Governance And Business, Spirituality And Ecology In Revealinginterviews With Captains Of Industry And Subsistence Farmers,politicians And Dalits, Spiritual Leaders And Bandits, He Capturesthe Voices Of The Nation Even As He Celebrates Its Vibrant Historyand Incredible Potential About Author Mark Tully Sir Mark Tully Was Born In Calcutta, India, In He Was TheChief Of Bureau, BBC, New Delhi, For Twenty Two Years, Was Knightedin The New Years Honours List In And Was Awarded The PadmaBhushan In Today, His Distinguished Broadcasting Careerincludes Being The Regular Presenter Of The Contemplative BBC Radio Programme Something Understood His Books Include No Full Stopsin India, The Heart Of India, India In Slow Motion Written Withhis Partner And Colleague Gillian Wright And Indias UnendingJourney He Lives In New Delhi Reviews Tully Report S On The Various Indias Behind The Headlines Hindustan Times Through Tullys Probing Eyes, One Discovers The Complex Workingsof The Indian Democracy Telegraph Semi interesting One struggles to pick any central theme in this collection of long essays As standalone pieces, they are mildly engaging But there s nothing that ties them together into one cohesive body of work Tully s empathy for Indians is well documented So is his insight into the politics of the land Both these qualities are on display in Non Stop India What fails the book is the fact that it doesn t tell you anything you don t know already Can t help but feel a little let down considering the author s pedigree. Mark has an unique view of India, how it functions and what could be done to ramp the development process Going page by page, I understood some well known but overlooked stories about India His writing at any point discuss pre and post independent India Such holistic approach of writing is totally unbiased and really worth reading. A very interesting look at how the legacy of the caste system interacts with modern Indian politics to create today s India Definitely relies heavily on anecdotal accounts but still very informative for someone mostly unfamiliar with India s politics and culture. I am getting a little tired of reading similar books by people from outside India Offers nothing new or maybe I expected a lot from an writer of such stance However, it is well written and Mark Tully always has the ability to keep you turning pages Definitely worth a read. Felt elated to traverse through the upheavels of the country during the last 25 years mostly Felt ashamed as an Indian to get to know an English man who has been of an Indian than a Billion A raconteur at his narrative best thats Mark Tully in Non Stop India.
Sir William Mark Tully was the Chief of Bureau for the British Broadcasting Corporation BBC in New Delhi for 22 years Schooled in England, he stayed mostly in India covering all major incidents in South Asia during his tenure He was made an Officer of The Order of the British Empire in 1985 and was awarded the Padma Shree in 1992, a rare distinction for a non Indian He was knighted in the 200
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- Non Stop India
- Mark Tully
- 06 December 2019 Mark Tully