Mathew Varghese, Director of TRACI, interviewing Basil and Shirley Scott in the Spring of 2017.
Mathew: Do you have a rough idea when you began to get associated with TRACI?
Basil: From the beginning… Bruce acquired this building. I can’t remember the exact day. The idea was to have a community of writers… these people who would meet together… talking together… discussing together. And that’s what happened actually. And Vishal ( Mangalwadi) was doing his work on The World of Gurus. That book we discussed at great deal. But then there were other people (too) who were writing. Stone too was writing. Bruce (Nicholls) too was writing.
Shirley: Bruce wrote articles… for TRACI Journal.
M: So what was the motive in joining or forming TRACI? At the time of formation, many of you were there together, right?
B: I think, yes, we were there… Bruce, Catherine, Vishal, ourselves and Tony Stone. We were the core, yes. So it wasn’t a committee; it was people who were actually writing and doing some research and thinking. So the object was to bring a Christian mind-set to examine the problem we face, and to discuss them and to encourage at the same time other people – other Christians – to think and write, and to apply biblical principles to the world around us. The idea was not writing about theology or about Bible, but about the application of the Gospel to the world around us… to the culture in India. So, The World of Gurus is a good example… it is extremely important that we are also training ourselves to write or improve our ability to write. And for Vishal, of course, that was hugely important because that was his first book and to have had to submit his chapters to a critical audience, to a critical group, who would discuss every para of it was very helpful to him. Any author needs that and very rarely do you get anybody who is willing to give you that amount of tension… why can’t you do this? Why did you mean that? What about that? Why did you think of that? And all the rest of that.
M: So were you working both with UESI and TRACI simultaneously?
B: No. I left UESI because I was appointed at the Interserve as the India Superintendent, and that means looking after the 120-125 Interserver all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari… and the North East to Southwest.
M: So after your UESI work, you got associated with TRACI?
B: Yes. In 1978 I left UESI because Interserve asked me…
M: What are some of the good memories you have? Anything specific?
B: Well, the good memory was (that) the library was set up and was in working condition and was very useful. But I think the good memories are in the meeting together and discussing… intense discussing…and it was so good having Vishal there. Otherwise, rest of us were foreigners there. Bruce, Kathy and ourselves. But Vishal was there. So that did give us an Indian viewpoint all the time.
M: Did any other Indian join after Vishal… during your time?
B: L T ( Jeyachandran) could have been in the Board or something. I am sure he might be there. But you see he was a working person (with the Government of India).
M: What were some of the challenges you faced?
B: I think that main challenge for us was how to relate Christian mind and the Gospel to all the variety of Indian culture. There was a huge variety of Indian culture. Where do you begin? Because in a Seminary you tend to be simply discussing Christian Theology or Bible or whatever. But then here to actually put your mind to thinking “What should we believe… And how should we be thinking… How should we be engaging… With all the cultures around us? And with specially Hindu culture, I suppose, we were focussed on all aspects of, as you see them in The World of Gurus, and that was one example as we’ve said.
M: Till which year were you with TRACI?
B: We left in 1983. And Tony Stone left about the same time as us. Bruce Nicholl stayed on. I can’t tell you how long Bruce was on, and then Bruce used to come back at times certainly.
S: What is your vision in coming to TRACI? What do you see it as capable of being?
M: Of course, the same thing that you were saying: Christian thinking and writing. These were the two things for which I got attracted to TRACI…earlier I heard about TRACI… in John Stott’s book Issues Facing Christians Today.
B: Oh, I see!
S: Have you got writers in mind?
M: Of course, earlier also we had a group here; not associated with any organisation though. When I was working with UESI, we called it as Delhi group or Reflection group. And as a result, we got few books published.
B: Ah, Shantanu is at the forefront in writing?
M: Yes, Shantanu was part of that. Then Cherian Thomas, Jamila Koshy…they were all part of it. So we all used to come together, and we used to gather in any of our homes. Even our home was used for that. So that is almost similar to TRACI’s vision. So all those friends also told me that there is already an organisation with that vision, why cant’ you revive it? So that’s the motivation I received to join TRACI.
B: So you see… there’s Shantanu, Cherian…there is five, and they wrote book together. Isn’t it?
M: Should I Care? is what they wrote. Two or three books are there.
B: You can see how much easier it could be if they actually met together… or stay together. Maybe not for long. They may have busy jobs or whatever! But if there’s a place for them to stay together for a week, and there are some… or one or two who are there all the time, that helps a great deal, isn’t it?
M: That’s the challenge we are facing now. We don’t have enough people to put things together. But gradually we are working towards that. To bring some young researchers who would like to write… and make a team so that the whole vision can be taken forward.
B: If you don’t have money to bring in people for three months, you can bring people in for three hours… (laughs)…from time to time.
M: That is happening now. I’ll handover to you one small book we have published. Of course, along with SALT Initiative and UESI… we organised a Conference. We had papers presented on different topics, and that is being published. And the second meeting also happened one week back… on Nationalism. Here in our country, lot of discussion on Nationalism has been taking place these days.
B: Of course! That Wednesday meeting showed that there are… you’ve got quite a lot of resourceful people in Delhi who are engaging in different ways on these essential issues. So that’s very very good.
S: This is an excellent production. That’s really really good.
M: Thank you very much for this valuable time.