Sir Mark Tully: ‘India’s Unending Journey’
John Kenneth Galbraith, the distinguished economist, who was the US ambassador to India, once described the country as ‘functioning anarchy’. Others have described India as ‘functioning democracy’.
One of the best known British journalists in India is Sir Mark Tully, who has made India his home. In an article in The Independent, he writes: “India is renowned for its inefficiency. Could that be the reason for its failure to compete more successfully in the global tourism and travel market?
“Inefficiency can be irritating, inconvenient and sometimes incapacitating. Orderliness, a by-product of efficiency, is often boring. India has plenty of rules and regulations but there’s almost always a way round them; it has no obsessions and is certainly not boring.
“From years of experience of meeting visitors to India I have never met one who was bored or indifferent. Tourists and business travellers all leave either loving or loathing the country.
“Those who come to love India take a balanced view of its inefficiency. They come to accept the uncertainties of travelling in a country whose citizens say ‘there must be a God because no one else could run our chaotic country’.
“They marvel that a country described by its own people as chaotic has a culture so strong that it has survived centuries of Muslim invaders and frustrated the British Raj’s attempt to impose what we Britons claimed was our superior culture.
“Although there are signs that its resistance to our consumerist culture is weakening, history suggests that at the very least consumerism will have to adapt itself to Indian tastes because India has shown a talent for absorbing other cultures rather than being absorbed.
“Few ancient cities survive today and those that do, such as Athens and Cairo, cannot claim their ancient culture is still intact. The holy city of Varanasi (or Benaras) is the only exception to that rule that I know. Its ancient culture is still alive.
“On my last visit to Varanasi I asked a Hindu monk why that was, and he replied: ‘A tree that bends in the wind will not break’.