January 11, 2020
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'India In The Subconscious'

Mark Tully turned 13 in 1948

'India In The Subconscious'
'India In The Subconscious'
"India is over. Finished." Father kept on drumming it into my head. He had stayed back in India for two years after he packed me and my older sister back to England with my mother. As a manager of an agency that financed everything from the Howrah Bridge to mines and jute mills and ran the Darjeeling railway, he thought it was all over as soon as he left, in 1947.

Not everyone felt so. Certainly not my grandfather. He was in Calcutta while we were there. But not in our house in Tollygunj, with four bedrooms, a stable and a garden. A jute broker, he came back to England with us but hated it. He had taught us some Hindi although he wasn’t meant to. We had a nanny in Calcutta, imported especially from Surrey, to ensure that we grew up nice Angrezi bachchas and to stop us speaking Hindi. Nanny really had no work—there was an ayah and a nursery boy—except to make sure we played only with Brit children.

Grandfather was determined to go back to Calcutta, and did, when I was 13. As for me, India had sunk more or less into the subconscious. I missed the servants, the sunshine and my school in Darjeeling, and loved telling tall stories about life in India. But I was too busy being a badmash in the public school I’d just joined in Wiltshire to think too much about the life we’d left behind.

It was at public school that I came face to face again with the life I’d left behind. I met an old schoolfriend from Darjeeling. Jane had come for a tennis match, and it was she who discovered my name in the list of players and recognised that we’d both gone to The New School in Darjeeling. It was a boarding school specially for English children, a relaxed, open school. We could wander around town and go up to the American rest and recreation camp, where American soldiers who were fighting on the Burma front were sent back. School in England was a shock after that—all boxed up behind a high wall and only allowed out on a Sunday in a crocodile formation. Jane and I talked of India. She became my first real girlfriend. She was more imbued with India than me, and determined to come back. She did, many years before I did, and married a tea planter.

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