05 April 2008

India in Slow Motion

Ground reality

Author: Mark Tully and Gillian Wright
Price: 450
Published In: 2001
Publishers: Penguin

Reading the first few pages of the book on Ram Janma Bhoomi felt like an extension of the reportage one watches on television all the time. So I set the book aside and did not return to it until very recently.


While flipping through it once again, a chapter on 'Creating Cyberabad' in the time of Chandrababu Naidu’s reign caught my attention.  Mark Tully had met the CM and also interviewed many of his critics and opposition ministers who believed Naidu's  much-hailed IT revolution was a sham and that unless he tackled problems at the ground-level, he would fail. That seems very prophetic now after his party was decimated in the ensuing elections.

There are two other chapters which were readable,  one on the carpet industry in Mirzapur and the child labour involved in it and another one on Nizammuddin and the Sufi saints.

Then there’s a chapter on Kashmir where Mark Tully interviews Farookh Abdulla, the flamboyant ex CM of the valley who Tully caught in an unusually irate mood. There’s another interesting chapter here on Water Harvesting projects taken on by some draught prone villages in Gujarat, driven by dynamic and innovative men.

One that I found particularly engaging was the piece on Tehelka’s expose of corruption in defence deals. Mully meets Joseph –Tehelka’s man who actually carried out the sting operation.

A ‘Tale Of Two Brothers’ that talks about V P Singh and his brother and 'Farmer's Reward' are mildly engaging but nothing exceptional.

In this journalistic endevour, Tully and his co-writer Gillian Wright are privy to English breakfasts at their European friend's house in Mirzapur and are generally taken care of by hospitable people,  too overwhelmed to have the ex BBC man among them.

Tully tackles the obvious themes on India but digs deep enough to give readers an in depth perspective. For example, most of us know about the farmer's plight in India but Tully goes a little further and looks into possible solutions.

Admirably, Tully is in no haste to make judgments and for most time, merely presents facts as a balanced observer. Of course when truth stares in the face, he does not hesitate from making a sharp comment. He’s particularly scathing in his criticism of the bureaucracy and corruption that are eating into the country’s progress and posing a hurdle in its development.

Mark Tully demonstrates genuine concern for a country that he's reported for more than 25 years and for most part, this is a fairly engaging read.

If the book is not terribly exciting,  it could be in part due to Tully's journalistic background.  The style for newspapers is usually sparse and impersonal, and when journalists turn writers, that pattern continues.


janaki said...

Do you know that we classify Ruskin Bond, Mark Tully and jim Corbett under "indian writing", but not Naipaul and Kipling ?

We go by "feeling" indian, not passports. Mark Tully geniunely feels for India, knows her concerns, empathaises with her problems, but is not patronising.

Master Praz said...

I read Tullys NO FULL STOPS IN INDIA and enjoyed that a bit...

Sandhya Iyer said...

Hey Akshay, thanks for visiting.