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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I shall forever kick myself for having missed out on the chance to moderate Mark Tully's session. Such are the exigencies of schedules that it ended up clashing with my workshop.

So I just couldn't believe my luck when the man himself decided to take a stroll of the picturesque Amangalla and reached our little space just as I was desperately trying to fit the laptop back into the bag. In the ensuing excitement, I forgot to yank out the zip disk which went khatak into two. I ask him if he is he in a tearing hurry. Prompt comes the reply 'bilkul nahin'.

So can I take a picture with you?
So here is the star-struck picture of yours truly with the man himself.

Can I get my books signed?
So out came the books.

You've actually been carrying all these around?
Absolutely (in the hope of bumping into you, I tell myself).

For years, I tell the media legend, I've been waiting for this moment. Now, that it is here, it sure seems larger than life. I tell him about his book (co-authored with Satish Jacob) on Operation Blue Star - 'Amritsar, Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle' and what a deep impact it had on me. It was then and is even now widely considered an authoritative word on what happened in 1984 at The Golden Temple. The gun-fire that was exchanged changed so many lives forever. Families ran away from homes, shops were razed to the ground, thousands of innocent lives were lost. My Dad who had fought in the war endured the saga of searches from his own men. All because he was a Sikh. But that didn't stop him from making several trips from Dalhouse (where he was attending a NCC Camp) to Amritsar and back to get as many stranded people out of the hills. I told him about the Punjab I'd never seen before. Brought to a standstill all the way from Pathankot with tanks lining the roads and then coming back to Amritsar to the booming sound of guns. Try as hard as one might, these things just don't go away.

Tully knows. He has seen and lived through it all and tells me about some of those battles, about what happened at Ganganagar and what it took to get some of those stories out.

A gripping conversationalist, he has me hanging on to his every word.

From the days of Blue Star to covering every conceivable disaster on television, he goes on to delve on the current state of television reporting.
"So much has changed," he says and I know the next thing that's coming is not in a good way.

We talk of Page 3 becoming Page 1. Movie stars engagements, birthdays et al passing off as headline news when so much is happening in the world around us. Worse still is seeing pictures thrown on to scripts that don't come together.

Then we talk a little bit about how much India has changed, the economy, the booming and 'my rising rent'.

Why is he still living on rent, I wonder, only to have my question answered the next day.

At 'The Englishman Abroad' which brought together the likes of Arthur C Clarke, William Darlymple and Tully, he stands out like a true son of the soil.

He hasn't ever attempted to run away from the Indian weather like his fellow panelist. He loves the sights, sounds and smells. He speaks of the Indian text and writing in Indian languages with an unmatched fervour and passion. He truly stands up for everything Indian, even the seeming weaknesses. He is beyond the pretension of the starched kurta. For all of that and a whole lot more, I give him my humble salaam.

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