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India's Unending Journey: Finding balance in a time of change Hardcover – 3 May 2007
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"Tully challenges the preconceptions others have about this land of contrasts, as well as those India has about itself. In doing so, he beautifully brings the country and its people to life" (Daily Express)
"Deeply thoughtful" (Spectator)
"A warm and engaging guide" (The London Paper)
"The perspective of an insightful observer who has seen it all" (India Today)
The many lessons to be learned from India, by one of its most well known commentatorsSee all Product description
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There is merit between the disconnected religious ramblings and thebook is worth reading - it is just not really about India's journey, but more of the use of pluralism which succeeds in that great country to shore up the shaky dogma of the need to believe in gods. Sorry Mark, but you'll know what I mean.
Born in India, Mark Tully was brought up with an English nanny so he would 'not go native', but how his parents might react to the Mark Tully, who makes his home in India and by all counts, speaks Hindi well, now is anybody's guess.
Before I say anything about the book, I must confess my partiality to Mark Tully: I grew up with his spoken word as a child listening to the BBC and in my adult years, I have read much of his written word. His style is lucid, his argument clear and his language highly accessible. That applies to his books I have reviewed earlier and to this one.
This book, his latest, focuses on the pluralistic tradition in Indian and Hindu philosophy by weaving an autobiographical story encompassing his days as a boy at Marlborough, then at Cambridge and Lincoln, and his experiences in India. He nods to Amartya Sen's book on the argumentative and discursive tradition in India, but adds a layer of his own experience in faith. Ah, faith, that word! It is almost taboo to discuss God and faith in a scientism and commercialism focused time such as ours. But Tully does discuss it and is not afraid to discuss how his life was shaped by his experiences in absolutist traditions of Marlborough, his doubts during his theological training, his constant questioning and his observation of the possibility that no one absolute truth exists (in religion as in life), and his experience of India.
The narrative goes back and forth in time but sometimes those flash-backs are the best method for presenting a story (in Indian mythology, the term is 'dant katha', an explanatory story which digresses from the main plot but enriches it by imbuing it with meaning and context). He starts with how the book was 'born' definitively in Puri where he had had many a vacation in his childhood, recalls his absolutist studentship at Marlborough, touches on Delhi and what makes it tick, travels to Raipur and how a singularity-themed Hindutva tradition betrays the pluralism and all-embracing evolution of Hindu philosophy. He describes how Cambridge's tradition of teaching to think changed him tremendously, esp coming as it did after Marlborough and the Armed Forces. He touches upon ancient and modernist interpretations of sexuality in religion both in Christian and Hindu societies. All through, the prose is refreshing in that it is not politically correct but it is not deliberately offensive either - a tough balance for even for inclusive liberals with a social conscience and political awareness.
Mark Tully is one of the rare persons who are decorated with the highest of civilian honours both in the UK and in India. And well-deservedly too. I do not know of many other writers capable of quoting both St Ignatius's prayer and the Bhagwadgita in his prose; nor do I know of many others who understand the nuanced evolution of every religion in secular India (for more on Indian interpretation, I recommend Ed Luce's 'In spite of the Gods') in ways that make them uniquely Indian in good ways and bad; he quotes RC Zaehner with as much ease as he does Dr S Radhakrishnan, one of India's Presidents, who had earlier headed up a department in religious studies at Oxford; none of his arguments misses being framed in the context of a modern India which is searching for an identity that satisfies all its facets.
If, by the time I am nearing 70, I could write an equally sensitive and nuanced book on Great Britain, I might make the claim of having swapped places with him. For now, I recommend strongly this book to those who wish to comprehend India and its paradoxes, as a valuable contribution. Now on my next trip, I really must try and meet him...
I highly recommend the book, and would strongly suggest you do not miss his reading list at the back for some excellent books he has referred.
Some flags for: in some places, he uses liberally some terms in the book without an explanation e.g. in the first chapter, Sahib and Memsahib (sort of a spoken term to address an English person and his wife for whom 'Madam Sahib' becomes Memsahib), Kartik Purnima (full moon in the month of Kartik in one of the Hindu calendars). You can find the meanings of those terms easily using Google so please do not get disappointed.
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