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Books and Documents ( 29 Apr 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Literary Storm in a Wine Glass

By Neha Tara Mehta


Francois Gautier insists Mark Tully is the author of Hindutva, Sex &Adventure

IT’S A book with no literary merit whatsoever, but it has become the biggest whodunit of the year. Hindutva, Sex and Adventure , the bombshell Roli Books dropped on the Foreign Correspondents Club in February, is slowly detonating and shows no signs of being defused just yet.


Not only has the book caused a storm in many a wine glass at the Club by its less- thanveiled attempt to sully the reputation of the much- venerated Mark Tully, but it has also snowballed into a slang- fest over the identity of the author, who has taken recourse to writing under the frustratingly cryptic pseudonym, John MacLithon.


The author hides behind a smokescreen to weave together a quickie novelette that at best deserves the Bad Sex Award, for the tantric sex romps of its Hindutva- loving protagonist, Andrew Luyt, a foreign correspondent posted in India whose character is a gross misrepresentation of Tully’s long stay in India.

MacLithon too has an intriguing and suspiciously familiar author- bio: he describes himself as a foreign correspondent who holds the profound belief that India should have pride in its Hindu base. He claims to have interviewed six Indian prime ministers and dodged bullets on the India- Pakistan border. And, like Tully, he lives in Delhi with his partner.


After a handful of possible author names being bandied about in a guessing game that would be any publisher’s dream, a simmering war of words has erupted in the diaspora of veteran India hands from abroad. Two distinct camps have emerged in this essentially Anglo- French face- off. At one end is Francois Gautier, editor- in- chief of the Parisbased La Revue de l’Inde , widely believed to be the face behind MacLithon, who maintains that the author is none other than Tully. Ranged against him is a cohort of foreign journalists, mostly English, who rubbish Gautier’s charge.


Tully’s own response to Gautier’s allegations is this: “ The idea that I’ve written a book intended to be so damaging to me is absolutely absurd. The fact that Gautier or anyone else should think so morally obliges Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books to reveal the identity of the author. Doubtless he won’t.” Former Financial Times journalist John Elliott, who wrote and tore the book to shreds in these pages, is emphatic when he points out, “ Tully categorically didn’t write this book. All his colleagues and friends know that and we suspect that Francois Gautier did. It is significant that Gautier is the only person suggesting Mark wrote it — presumably because he is trying to get publicity to ramp up sales and royalties on a book that he and Pramod Kapoor should be ashamed of writing and publishing.” Kapoor, who says he decided to publish the book because he thought it was exciting, is contractually bound not to reveal the identity of the author.


 In a long statement to this writer, Gautier listed several reasons why he cannot be the author of the controversial book: “ I have always written under my own name and never shied away from telling the truth. If I’d diluted my views and compromised on reporting the truth, I would be rich and famous today.” The charge that he is seeking publicity, he says, is baseless, because his latest book, A New History of India ( Har- Anand, 2009), “ was released in front of one lakh people and has already sold thousands of copies.”


And lastly, he claims he’s “ a much more ardent — and militant — defender of Hindus than Mark Tully ever was and will ever be.” The brand of Hindutva proposed in the book “ reads rather mild”, says Gautier, who believes “ the time of Hindu power has come.” Gautier identifies an excerpt from the book in which Luyt and his girlfriend, Imla, fight over the merits of Sonia Gandhi taking the helm of the Congress as showing “ Tully’s hand.” Why does he think Tully is the author? “ Read between the lines of most of his books and you will see that he says — albeit in a diluted manner — that secularism is a colonial leftover; and that Hinduism constitutes the genius and the base of Indian civilisation.” Going on to assume that Tully is in fact MacLithon, Gautier adds, “ I find his establishing a dialogue in the book between Imla, the Indian journalist, who is a diehard secularist and Andrew, who gradually realises that Hindus are a very wonderful but persecuted people, a brilliant ploy.”


Why did Tully publish under a pseudonym, one might want to ask Gautier. “ We live in a politically correct world and the words Hindu — Hindutva even more — are dirty synonyms in today’s India. Yet what he ( Tully) says in the last chapter is remarkable: that Hindutva can be hep, young and fashionable.” Gautier’s final argument is that Tully “ may have wanted to atone for his coverage of South Asia.” Remembering the early 1990s when both were reporting on Kashmir, Gautier says, “ He would always highlight the human rights abuses on Muslims by the army, but hardly ever spoke about those on 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus.” Gautier’s arguments aren’t finding any takers. Says David Housego, who used to be the Financial Times correspondent for South Asia and is now into sourcing and exporting home furnishing products: “ Mark Tully certainly didn’t write the book.

He writes a lot better.” Housego was earlier named by Gautier as one of the possible authors. “ He described me as someone known to love Sanskrit and Indian spirituality.


But the sad truth is that I am pretty much an atheist and know no Sanskrit.” Tully, says Housego, has been targeted because he is “ such a likable person.” Agrees retired Swiss journalist Bernard Imhalsy, who had also been named by Gautier as a possible author. “ Mark Tully is the face of foreign correspondents in India. For purely marketing reasons, using Tully’s name is a good choice,” he says.

Imhasly claims to have spotted a “ linguistic fingerprint” on Page 155 of the book that points towards Gautier’s hand. “ Luyt gets a letter from his girlfriend saying she wishes to have a comprehensive husband. Only a Frenchman would use that expression, because in French un mari comprehensif means an understanding husband,” Imhasly says.


The mysterious MacLithon, meanwhile, suggests in an email to this correspondent that she widen her search for the author.

“ Maybe you are pointing the wrong finger at the usual suspects — Tully because it seems based on some aspects of his life, and Gautier, for he is the only western correspondent to defend Hindutva — with Tully.” MacLithon sure knows how to keep a guessing game alive to fuel his book sales.


Source: Mail Today, New Delhi