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Denied entry to Puri temple, Mark Tully returns ‘hurt’ from Odisha

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Reported by Ranjan Pradhan
Bhubaneswar, May 17:

Legendary broadcaster and author Sir William Mark Tully, whose name has been virtually synonymous with BBC in India for decades, returned deeply disappointed from his recent visit to Odisha. The reason; despite his abiding faith in the Lord of the Universe, he was not allowed entry into the Lord Jagannath temple in this the Nabakalebara year.

Mark Tully

“Lord Jagannath is not only the god of Odias, but the Lord of the whole universe. I have always adored Him. But when I paid a visit to Him today, I was not allowed inside the temple. It hurt me deep inside. Isn’t it tragic not to allow someone to get into the temple of the Lord of the Universe?” an anguished Tully said in an exclusive interview during his recent visit to Odisha to take part in a literary festival.

Excerpts from the interview during the course of which the 79-year old legendary journalist and eminent author talked at length about his long association with the BBC, his life as a man of British origin who spent almost all his life in India, his love for the country and much more.

Q. Please tell us something about your bestselling book ‘No Full Stops in India’.

A: India became independent, but the imprints of colonialism remained in the country. My book ‘No Full Stops in India’ explores the after effects of British colonialism in the post-independence period.

The villages of India and its natural atmosphere are really beautiful. The people of the country are really simple. But false modernity is spreading its wings in the country in the name of neo-colonialism. Indian women adopt false western feminism in the name of modernity. The youth is forgetting its tradition by aspiring to be modern.

I have based my book on this false-modernity that is influencing the simple Indian lifestyle. The book ran out of stock a few days after getting published. It has always surprised me why Indians loved to read the book so much.

Q. Why did you leave BBC in 1994? Were you forced to resign?

A: Yes. A situation was created that made me quit BBC. I had expressed some strong views about the disastrous management at an in-house meeting of BBC in 1994. It didn’t go well with some. BBC had come to a standstill back then. I had given many proposals for revival and pressed for reforms. But my views were not accepted. This situation made me quit BBC.

Q. Will you stay all your life in India? Won’t you return back to England?

A: I have seen India in two forms. One under the empire of British Raj and the other free from British. The simple Indian lifestyle, unity amidst diversity, friendliness and helpfulness have influenced me all my life. The simple Indian lifestyle has encouraged me for a lifelong stay. I have never considered going back to England.

I will leave India the day I leave this earth. India is my heaven. I have lived here. I will die here too.

Q: Did you come to Odisha before? What has been your experience with Lord Jagannath?

A: I had come here with my father as a child. He used to stay in Kolkata. The starvation deaths and droughts of the Kalahandi district had a deep impact on me then. Later, when I became the bureau chief of BBC New Delhi, I had many opportunities to report on the acute poverty of Kalahandi and Koraput districts and the tribal living. My experience of childhood helped me a lot.

So far as Jagannath is concerned, he is not only the god of Odias, but the Lord of the whole universe. I have always adored him. But when I paid a visit to him today, I was not allowed inside the temple. It hurt me deep inside. Isn’t it tragic not to allow someone to get into the temple of the Lord of the Universe?

Q: What do you think of Indian politics?

A: India is the largest democratic country. This country has a tradition of respecting different views. There is no place for dictatorial rule here. I had vehemently opposed the ‘Operation Blue Star’ of Indira Gandhi as a foreign journalist. I had also opposed the flawed Sri Lanka Policy of Rajiv Gandhi. Corruption knew no bounds during the Sonia Gandhi led weak government. It affected the Indian democracy to some extent.

Now Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of the country. However, there are allegations of authoritarianism against him. I hope he will lead the dynamic progress of the country. Otherwise, Indian democracy will be in danger once more.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: There are no specific aims. I would like to age gracefully and die peacefully.

Sir William Mark Tully is the former Bureau Chief of BBC in India and one of the most renowned journalists to have reported from the country. He worked for BBC for a period of 30 years before resigning in July 1994. No Full Stops in India’, one of Sir Tully’s best-known books, was published in 1992 at the height of his career giving him a celebrity status.

Born in 1935 in Tollygunge in Kolkata in British India, he was educated at Cambridge before returning to India in 1965 to work as the India Correspondent of BBC. He covered all major incidents in South Asia during his tenure; ranging from Indo-Pakistan conflicts, Bhopal gas tragedy, Operation Blue Star and the subsequent assassination of Indira Gandhi, anti-Sikh riots, assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to the demolition of Babri Masjid and was barred from entering India during Emergency in 1975-77 for his anti-government reports.

 

 

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