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Sir Mark Tully: The Christian who believes in karma
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Most mornings, Sir Mark Tully, the celebrated veteran BBC India correspondent and still one of Britain’s favourite broadcasters, can be seen walking his two Labradors in New Delhi’s ancient Lodhi Gardens. Cane in hand, dressed in crisp, white kurta pyjamas, he is every inch the English gentleman journalist who has given his heart to his adoptive country. He is known, affectionately and respectfully, as “Tullysahib”. The epithet reflects not only admiration for his 46 years spent reporting from the sub-continent, from the assassinations of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi and the Bhopal gas disaster to the destruction of the Babri mosque by Hindu nationalists at Ayodhya, but also recognition that time has given an Indian accent t o certain words, and a Hindustani aspect to some gestures. However much of him India has claimed, he has always clung resolutely to his Christian faith, as devoted to the Anglican Church today as he was as a schoolboy at Marlborough, a theology student at Cambridge, and at Lincoln Theology College, where he once hoped to become a priest. He remains a regular worshipper at Cathedral Church of the Redemption in the I ndian capital. Yet now, at the age of 76, Sir Mark appears to have embarked on a spiritual journey that few of his fellow worshippers there, and almost one million devoted listeners of his Sunday evening programme Something Understood on BBC Radio 4, would consider recognisably Christian: he has accepted the eastern religious ideas of karma and reincarnation. There are different interpretations of karma and reincarnation within the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, but Sir Mark has come to believe that he will be born again into a new life, the nature of which will be determined by how he has lived and behaved in this one. His journey has taken him to a place where he no longer accepts central Christian tenets of God’s forgiveness and redemption, or the physical resurrection of Christ. And he must reconcile somehow this departure with his refusal to give up his connection to the Anglican Church. At home in his ground floor flat in Nizamuddin West, a largely Muslim neighbourhood, Tully confesses that his long-term partner Gillian Wright once told him “you love the Church more than you love Jesus”.
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