Mark Tully is probably the only foreign correspondent in Delhi who, as the saying goes, does not require any introduction. Born in Kolkata and educated in one of the best schools and colleges in England, for a time he also decided to make priesthood as his career and joined a Theological Institute?he had some spiritual bent in him?but quite early realised that he would not fit in a religious mould.
He joined the Army briefly and was commissioned but he is frank enough to admit that this could only have been possible because he belonged to Britain'sUpper Middle Class or, ?in other words, the officer class?. Subsequently he joined the BBC and spent twenty two years as its New Delhi Chief of Bureau, but slyly adds that he is not sure he would have got into it either ?without any professional qualifications?, if he hadn'tfollowed his Army Commission by going to Cambridge ?where it was still relatively easy for one from a public school to get admission?.
In many ways this book which refers to India'sunending journey, is really a story of Tully'sown unending journey on the way to self understanding, against his British background. Without an understanding of Tully'sBritish upbringing and his deep spiritual yearnings right from his boyhood, this book would lose half its relevance. In a sense, actually, this book should attract more attention from British readers than from his many Indian fans. He had been brought up to believe ?that Hinduism was a contemptible religion? and Tully frankly admits that when he came back to India, as many Indian-born British children before him have done?he brought his childhood prejudices against Hinduism with him.
But it is to Tully'scredit that he also had an open mind and he began to read up on Hinduism, starting with Dr Radhakrishnan'sThe Hindu Way of Life. That was to turn out to be a revelation to him. Radhakrishnan had described Hinduism as ?a movement, not a position, a process, not a result, a growing tradition and not a fixed revelation?. And then he read Amartya Sen'sThe Argumentative Indian from which he learnt that ?pluralism? is ?part of the general Indian tradition of questioning, discussion, dissent and indeed scepticism?. ?Pluralism? involved humility, it meant acknowledging that one doesn't have the complete or final answer. Tully had already learnt from reading Radhakrishnan, that ?in Hinduism, intellect is subordinated to intuition, dogma to experience, outer expression to inner reality?.
As he continued reading up on Hinduism, writes Tully, India forced him?these are his words?to think again about the faith in which he had been brought up because he felt that he ?couldn'tjust ignore what was right? before his very eyes.
In the course of years that he spent in India?and, as BBC correspondent, he traveled widely, even visiting temples and discussing religion and philosophy with many scholars?he learnt one simple truth that he might have learnt from Mahatma Gandhi. As Tully puts it: ?Varanasi and India have taught me to respect the faith I was born into. For me to become a Hindu would be to deny that Christianity is also a way to God? and that, as a Hindu guru, Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati wisely advised him, ?your well-being lies within your own tradition?. Only, Varanasi demonstrated to him that ?a marriage between East and West is possible?.
Writes Tully: ?What I have learnt from India might be summed up in that old-fashioned word, ?humility?. What I have learnt in India seems to be relevant not only for our personal lives but also for humans as species?. India'sUnending Journey is also a book about humility?..?. Humility? Indians being humble? If he really believes that humility is a predominant Indian characterestic, God save Tully! Accepting plurality in religion doesn'tmean being humble. Plurality is a philosophic acceptance of one'slimitations of understanding God. Neti, neti. Not this, not this. If should not be misinterpreted as humility which is a personal characterestic which is almost an inherited one. But it is nice to be told by a Britisher that Indians have still some virtues intact left. It is a touching tribute to an age-old civilisation which has seen so many ups and downs and has survived them all because of a virtue that hasn'tmuch else to commend it. Nevertheless, thank you, Sir Mark. It is very gracious of you.
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