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Mark Tully on India and Hinduism: From the Political to the Personal?

J7.1-3-COVER-SB1.qxdThis post is the transcript of an electronic interview between Journeys contributor, Nivedita Misra, and Berghahn blog editor Lorna Field. Nivedita Misra is the author of Mark Tully on India and Hinduism: From the Political to the Personal which was published in Volume 15, Number 1 of Journeys: The International Journal of Travel & Travel Writing.


What drew you to this topic?

I was initially drawn towards travel writing in my attempts to learn how travellers write about India. Mark Tully, a former journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation in the South Asia, has written extensively on India. His engagement with Hinduism is at most superficial yet he is able to write quite convincingly about India. The question that disturbed me was how is this possible for an outsider to read and speak about another culture as if he/she understands it fully.


Did any perceptions on the subject change from the time you started writing the article to the time you completed and published it?

Reading and writing are complimentary exercises. While when I began reading up on travel writing in general and Mark Tully in particular, I thought I was trying to understand him. But by the end of writing on Tully, I realized that the article was also about me and my position within India, and that controlled my response to his writing.


What about writing this article did you find most challenging?  Most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of the experience was publishing it. The most challenging was to be able to actually formulate my thoughts. The subtleties involved in usage of words such as engagement, understanding and negotiating surprised me. It also helped me to understand how travel writers engage with writers and audiences alike to understand another culture while negotiating their own heritage.


To what extent do you think this article will contribute to debates amongst academics within the field?

From my perspective, the most important contribution that this article makes is to distinguish the presence of a dual audience for the travel writer. The writer shows his acknowledgement of the home audience along with an audience in the country through which he is travelling and writing about. Since both these audiences approach the text differently, the writer plays upon his postures and positions. The writer is experienced, well travelled, well read and intellectual at a given moment of time while in other instances he is the casual, indulgent traveller, who is happy to enjoy his evening drink among the natives. He is mindful of not hurting the sentiments of his reading public. Yet, one also feels that he is far more comfortable criticizing his own culture while treading a careful path through another country and culture.


What is one particular area of interest or question, that hasn’t necessarily been the focus of much attention, which you feel is especially pertinent to your field today and in the future?

As more and more English speaking audiences across the world become proactive readers, especially in India and China, world perception and who travels where and in search of what will undergo a major change since travel writing is about telling adventures anew.




To read Nivedita Misra’s full article, click here. To get a free 60-day online trial of the journal, click here.