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Four years ago, when Mark Tully finally got his birth certificate at the age of 78 in Kolkata, the mayor held a small presentation ceremony. Tully needed the certificate to become an Overseas Citizen of India, though he has lived in the country for decades.
From the mid-1960s, Tully’s voice was an important source of credible news — BBC being the only alternate to news on All India Radio at the time — for generations of Indians. Since joining the British broadcaster’s India bureau in 1965, Tully is now among the most felicitated foreign journalists in the country.
On Saturday, Tully will be the guest at the Express Adda in New Delhi. The Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group and features those at the centre of change.
Born in 1935 in Tollygunge, Tully was one of the six children of his businessman father. After spending close to a decade in the country, he was sent to England to study before returning to join the BBC. He was one of the 40 foreign journalists who were thrown out of India by Indira Gandhi’s government for refusing to agree to government’s censorship rules under the Emergency. After Gandhi lost the elections in 1977, Tully was back, reporting in and on the country of his birth.
Tully has witnessed and reported some of the most significant events in the subcontinent, including the Indo-Pak wars, Operation Blue Star, Bhopal gas tragedy, the assassinations of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Padma Shri in 1992, a Knighthood in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2005 are markers of how treasured the veteran journalist is in both India and England.
One of the sharpest and oldest observers of India, he has written more than a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction.Since 1995, Tully, who studied theology and history at Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, has regularly hosted BBC’s Something Understood, an “ethical and religious discussion” show that “examines some of the larger questions of life, taking a spiritual theme”.
At the Express Adda, Tully will be in conversation with The Indian Express’s Deputy Editor Seema Chishti.
Guests at the event in the past include the Dalai Lama, economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, filmmaker Karan Johar, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, writer Amitav Ghosh and cricketer Virat Kohli.