He is a British, who has stayed in India for more than 40 years. Yet, he retains his English sensibilities and expresses them now and then with imbibed Indian sense.
“I'm an Englishman influenced by India. But I can’t deny my British heritage,” says Sir Mark Tully, the celebrated BBC correspondent, who was in the City recently to deliver a lecture. As the ‘voice of India’ for thirty years, Mark covered several defining moments in the Indian subcontinent and gave the listeners a perspective on the happenings in this part of the world.
Recalling one such experience, he says, “While covering Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya, I was locked inside one of the dharmashala by saffron clad activists. I was poked with trident and was called ‘the liar BBC journalist’. Thankfully, two other Indian journalists came to my rescue and pleaded with the kar sevaks to release me.”
Mark also had opportunities to interact with Indian politicians. Of all, he found Chaudhary Devi Lal and Charan Singh the most endearing. “They were politicians with rural base. I feel the English (language) media has been unfair to them,” he opines. Among the current breed, he says, “There is just Rahul Gandhi but he is still unproven.” Another incident that continues to appall Mark is the travesty of justice in Bhopal gas tragedy.
“It’s a crying shame that the judgment took so long. What is sad is the Indian government's failure to clean the mess and give compensation,” he avers. Having observed the Indian Press from such close quarters, Mark feels that it is more vigilant now.
“There is more competition. The content is varied. But it is dictated by commercialisation. The editors have lost control.” He offers a word of caution for the electronic media as well.
“TV journalists are not learning on their job. There is no one to point out their previous day’s mistake,” he clarifies. Mark has visited Bangalore many times and is saddened by its disappearing green cover.
“It’s no more the Garden City,” he laments. Like any harried visitor to the City, Mark too was disdainful of the long time it took him from the airport to reach the city centre.
“It's chaotic and the new airport is too far from the City. How can the government build an airport so far away without having any transport system in place? Bangalore represents the typical Indian problem where things are allowed to happen without giving any thought,” he tells.
So, does he agree with the comment made by Olympic Committee’s General Secretary Lalit Bhanot that Westerners have a different standard of cleanliness?
“That's a very stupid remark. If you are organising a global event like Commonwealth Games, you need to have a global standard of cleanliness as well,” Mark remarks.
Mark’s life in India is not just limited to delving into its realities. He also likes to watch larger than life Bollywood movies. In fact, he has played a small role in the film Junoon, made in the 1970s.
“I recently saw Peepli Live, it is a nice movie.” Amrish Puri happens to be his favourite movie star, “I really liked his deep voice and also the characters he played.”