James Tooley


Memoir, Non-fiction




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(Paperback | ISBN 9789386338891 | 272 pp | August 2017)


In March 2014, James Tooley, a champion of low-cost private schools across South Asia and Africa, was enjoying a well-deserved break in Hyderabad, reunited with his girlfriend Sara and niece Alissa. One evening he was visited by the ‘friendly’ Mrs Mantra, Deputy Superintendent, CID who was concerned about alleged irregularities in the funding of his NGO, the Educare Trust. Tooley clarified that he had already given a statement to the CID and shut the NGO down years ago. However, not to be brushed off, Mantra returned to his hotel later that night—this time with a posse of subordinates—to arrest him without a warrant.

Conditions in prison were dire, and the jailers typically cruel and violent, but the other prisoners were extraordinarily kind. Appallingly, many had been inside for years, never charged with anything, often victims of police corruption and too poor to go to court.

In this disturbing yet gripping book, Tooley recounts his time in prison and his Kafkaesque struggle against Indian bureaucracy. Even after securing bail, he was subjected to humiliating interrogations, threats from armed goons and demoralizing visits to the court.

A searing memoir and a chilling indictment of the Indian prison system, the police, and the judiciary which allows them discretion to act with impunity, Comeuppance: My Experiences in an Indian Prison is a timely reminder about the terrifying reality of twenty-first-century India.


Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


‘I couldn’t put down this fascinating account of a man who came to India to do good but fell afoul of police corruption, extortion and wrongful imprisonment. Multiply his misery by a million undertrials and you have the gravest indictment of India’s corrupt rule of law.’
—Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound and The Difficulty of Being Good

‘As a novel, James Tooley’s book would be thrilling and horrifying enough. Yet it is a true story, of being drawn into an endless labyrinth of imprisonment, injustice, corruption, bureaucracy, incompetence and misery, all because a colleague failed to pay a bribe a decade before […] Tooley tells the story with detachment and insight, then emerges with his humanity intact.’
—Matt Ridley, Author of The Rational Optimist

‘A great story told with insight, tension and wit. It reveals vividly that James Tooley's commitment to educating children from low-income families may be tested to the limits but will never be found wanting.’ —Sir Michael Barber, Author of How To Run A Government

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About the author

James Tooley

James Tooley is a professor of education policy at the University of Newcastle, where he directs the E. G. West Centre. He has published widely on the phenomenon of low-cost private schools in developing countries. His books include The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves (2009); Reclaiming […]

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