Mehta, Ved 1934–
Mehta, Ved 1934–
(Ved Parkash Mehta)
PERSONAL: Born March 21, 1934, in Lahore, India; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1975; son of Amolak Ram (a doctor and health official) and Shanti (Mehra) Mehta; married Linn Fenimore Cooper Cary (an assistant program officer at Ford Foundation), December 17, 1983; children: Alexandra Sage, Natasha Cary. Education: Pomona College, B.A., 1956; Balliol College, Oxford, B.A. (with honors), 1959; Harvard University, M.A., 1961; Oxford University, M.A., 1962. Hobbies and other interests: Indian and Western music, cycling, wine.
CAREER: New Yorker magazine, New York, NY, staff writer, 1961–94; American Heritage Dictionary, member of usage panel, 1982; Yale University, New Haven, CT, Rosenkranz Chair in Writing, 1990–93, lecturer in history, 1990–93, lecturer in English, 1991–93. Case-Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, visiting scholar, 1974; Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, visiting professor of literature, 1985, 1986; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, Noble Foundation visiting professor of art and cultural history, 1988; Balliol College, Oxford, visiting fellow in literature, 1988–89; New York University, New York, NY, visiting professor of English, 1989–90; Williams College, Williamstown, MA, Arnold Bernhard visiting professor of English and history, 1994; Vassar College, Pough-keepsie, NY, Randolph visiting distinguished professor of English and history, 1994–96. Columbia University Media Studies Center Freedom Forum, senior fellow, 1996–97; Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, CA, fellow, 1997–98.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa, Council on Foreign Relations, Century Association (trustee 1972–75), Tarratine Club of Dark Harbor (ME).
AWARDS, HONORS: Hazen fellowship, 1956–59; Secondary Education Board Annual Book Award, 1958, for Face to Face; Harvard, Eliot House residential fellowship, 1959–61; Ford Foundation travel and study grants, 1971–76; Guggenheim fellowships, 1971–72, 1977–78; Dupont Columbia Award for excellence in broadcast journalism, 1977–78, for documentary film Chachaji, My Poor Relation; Association of Indians in America award, 1978; Ford Foundation public policy grant, 1979–82; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, 1982–87; Asian/Pacific Americans Library Association distinguished service award, 1986; New York City Mayor's Liberty Medal, 1986; Pomona College centenary Barrows Award, 1987; New York Institute for Humanities fellowship, 1988–92; New York Public Library Literary Lion medal, 1990, and centennial medal, 1996; Asian-American Heritage Month award, New York State, 1991; Balliol College, Oxford, honorary fellow, 1999. Honorary degrees from Pomona College, D.Litt., 1972; Bard College, D.Litt., 1982; Williams College, D.Litt., 1986; Stirling University, Scotland, Doctor of Letters, 1988; and Bowdoin College, L.H.D., 1995.
"CONTINENTS OF EXILE" SERIES; AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL
Daddyji (originally published in the New Yorker), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1972.
Mamaji (originally published in the New Yorker), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979.
Vedi (originally published in the New Yorker), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
The Ledge between the Streams (originally published in the New Yorker), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1984.
Sound-Shadows of the New World, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1986.
The Stolen Light, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1989.
Up at Oxford, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1993.
Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 1998.
All for Love, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Dark Harbor: Building House and Home on an Enchanted Island, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Red Letters, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Face to Face: An Autobiography, Atlantic-Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1957.
Walking the Indian Streets (travel; originally published in the New Yorker), Atlantic-Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1960, revised edition, with new introduction by the author, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1971.
Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters with British Intellectuals (originally published in the New Yorker), Atlantic-Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1963, 2nd edition, with introduction by Professor Jasper Griffin, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1983.
The New Theologian (originally published in the New Yorker), Harper (New York, NY), 1966.
Delinquent Chacha (originally published in the New Yorker), Harper (New York, NY), 1967.
John Is Easy to Please: Encounters with the Written and the Spoken Word (originally published in the New Yorker), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1971.
Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles (originally published in the New Yorker), Viking (New York, NY), 1977, 2nd edition, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1993.
The New India (originally published in the New Yorker), Viking (New York, NY), 1978.
The Photographs of Chachaji: The Making of a Documentary Film (originally published in the New Yorker; also see below), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1980.
A Family Affair: India under Three Prime Ministers (sequel to The New India; originally published in the New Yorker), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Three Stories of the Raj (fiction; originally published in the New Yorker and Atlantic), Scolar Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.
Rajiv Gandhi and Rama's Kingdom (sequel to A Family Affair; originally published in the New Yorker and Foreign Affairs), Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1994.
A Ved Mehta Reader: The Craft of the Essay (originally published in the New Yorker), Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998.
Contributor to anthologies, including: Henry I. Christs and Herbert Potell, editors, Adventures in Living, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1962; Leo Kneer, editor, Perspectives, Scott Foresman (Chicago, IL), 1963; K.L. Knickerbocker and H.W. Reninger, editors, Interpreting Literature, Holt (New York, NY), 1965, 1969; Norman Cousins, editor, Profiles of Nehru, Indian Book Company (Delhi, India), 1966; George Arms and others, editors, Readings for Liberal Education, Holt (New York, NY), 1967; Walter Havighurst and others, editors, Exploring Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1968; Nicholas P. Barker, editor, Purpose and Function in Prose, Knopf (New York, NY), 1969; Mary V. Gaver, editor, Background Readings in Building Library Collections, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1969; N. Cousins, editor, Profiles of Gandhi, Indian Book Company, 1969; Jerome W. Archer and Joseph Schwartz, editors, A Reader for Writers: A Critical Anthology of Prose Readings, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1971; Margaret Cormack and Kiki Skagen, editors, Voices from India, Praeger Publishers (Westport, CT), 1971; John F. Savage, editor, Linguistics for Teachers, Science Research Associates (Chicago, IL), 1973; Albert R. Kitzhaber, editor, Style and Synthesis, Holt, 1974; Anne Fremantle, editor, A Primer of Linguistics, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1974; Donald J. Johnson and Jean E. Johnson, editors, Through Indian Eyes, Praeger Publishers (Westport, CT), 1974; Irving Kenneth Zola, editor, Ordinary Lives: Voices of Disability and Disease, Apple-Wood Press (Cambridge, MA), 1983; Dean W. Tuttle, editor, Self-esteem and Adjusting with Blindness: The Process of Responding to Life's Demands, C.C. Thomas (Springfield, IL), 1984; Harvey Weiner, editor, Great Writing, McGraw Hill, 1987; Helge Rubenstein, editor, The Oxford Book of Marriage, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990; George and Barbara Perkins, editors, Kaleidoscope, Oxford University Press,1993; Linda Bates, editor, Transitions: Paragraph to Essay, St. Martin's Press, 1993; Angela Thirwell, editor, The Folio Anthology of Autobiography, Folio Society (London, England), 1994; Roshni Rustomji-Kerns, editor, Living in America: Poetry and Fiction by South Asian American Writers, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1995; Anne Mazer, editor, Going Where I'm Coming From: Memoirs of American Youth, Persea Books (New York, NY), 1995; Traveller's Literary Companion: The Indian Sub-Continent, In Print Publishing (Brighton, England), 1996; Chitra B. Divakaruni, editor, Multitude: Cross-Cultural Readings, second edition, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1997; Stevan Harrell, editor, The Human Family, West-view Press, 1997; Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West, editors, Mirrorwork: Fifty Years of Indian Writing 1947–1997, Holt (New York, NY), 1997; Kennedy Fries, editor, Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, Plume (New York, NY), 1997; James A. Banks and others, editors, Regions: Adventures in Time and Place, McGraw-Hill, 1999; Eva Hedencrona and others, editors, Progress: Topics, Corona, 1999; Asian American Writers, McDougal Littel (New York, NY), 2000; Texts from Other Cultures, Oxford University Press, 2000; John Biyas and Carol Wershoven, editors, Along These Lines: Writing Sentences and Paragraphs, Prentice Hall, 2001; Mary Reath, editor, Public Lives, Private Prayers, Sorin Books (Notre Dame, IN), 2001; and Ann Moseley and Jeanette Harris, editors, Interactions: A Thematic Reader, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003. Writer and commentator for documentary film Chachaji, My Poor Relation, PBS, 1978. Contributor of articles and stories to American, British, and Indian newspapers and magazines, including Atlantic, Saturday Review, New York Times Book Review, Village Voice, World, Political Science Quarterly, Hindustan Times (New Delhi), Asian Post, and Debonaire (Bombay).
Several of Mehta's books have been translated into Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Marathi, Spanish, and Urdu.
SIDELIGHTS: Most well-known for his eleven-volume "Continents of Exile" autobiography series, Ved Mehta was born in India and returns there often in his writings, making this country of contradictions his backdrop, whether his account is political or personal. According to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times Magazine, William Shawn, Mehta's editor at the New Yorker—where Mehta was a longtime staff writer—has maintained that "more than any other writer Mehta has educated Americans about India, illuminating that country with an insider's sensibility and an outsider's objectivity."
As natives of Lahore, India, which is now Pakistan, Mehta's own parents typified the split in India between West and East, between science and ancient tradition. Mehta's father was educated in medicine in British India and England and became an important figure in India's public health service. Mehta's mother, who had a meager education, was a woman of superstition, confident in the powers of faith healers. When Mehta lost his sight at age four as the result of a bout with meningitis, his mother was convinced his blindness was only a temporary form of punishment and followed a local medicine man's advice, applying antimony to Mehta's eyes and flogging him with twigs, among other things. Mehta's more progressive-minded father believed an education would be the only way for his son to avoid the lot of a blind person in India: alms beggar or chair caner. At age five, Mehta was sent to Bombay's Dadar School for the Blind, an American mission school so lacking in sanitation that the once-healthy boy suffered in succession from numerous infections, including ringworm, typhoid fever, malaria, and bronchitis. At age fifteen, after experiencing the upheaval that accompanied the Partition of India in 1947, he traveled alone to the United States to study at the only American school that would accept him, the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. From there, Mehta went on to excel at Pomona College in California, at Balliol College, Oxford, and finally at Harvard University. In 1961, at the age of twenty-six, he became a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. Most of his books have appeared first in installments in the New Yorker.
While Mehta's first book, Face to Face: An Autobiography, addresses his blindness, many of his subsequent works have avoided this topic. In fact, for a while Me-hta demanded that his publishers avoid any reference to his blindness on his book jackets. Writing in the New York Times Book Review in 1960, Herbert L. Matthews noted that "Mehta plays an extraordinary trick on his prospective readers and on anyone who does not know about him or has not read his previous book, Face to Face…. He has written [Walking the Indian Streets] about his return to India after ten years' absence as if he had normal vision."
Many of Mehta's books contain elaborate visual imagery, and reviewers have often cited him as the blind man who can see better than can the rest of us. As Carolyn See explained in the Los Angeles Times: "When Mehta shows us the building of a dam; hundreds of brightly clad peasants carrying just a few bricks at a time; when in Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles, Mehta conjures up the evenings when the movement was still young, when the fragrance of blossoms was everywhere and Gandhi's followers stayed up late, out of doors, laughing, rubbing each other's backs—a whole world is given to us, and of course the kicker in all this is that … Mehta is blind." It was not until Daddyji, Mehta's biography of his father, that the author made reference to his blindness once again, and it was not until a later autobiographical work, Vedi, that he wrote "from the perspective of total blindness," according to Janet Malcolm in the New York Review of Books. Vedi "is entirely without visual descriptions. We follow the blind child into the orphanage, and, like him, we never learn what the place or any of the people in it looked like. We hear, we feel, but we see nothing…. As the child misses the familiar persons and things of home, so the reader misses the customary visual clues of literature…. Not the least of Vedi's originality is this very stylistic denial, which amounts to an approximation of the experience of blindness."
Although Mehta has written nonfiction, a novel, essays, and even a documentary script, highest critical regard has been for his contributions to the autobiographical genre. Face to Face, written when Mehta was in his early twenties, chronicles its author's early life, from his childhood in India to his three-year stay at the Arkansas School for the Blind where, among other things, he first encountered racism—"I wondered how dark I was, how much I looked like a Negro," Peter Ackroyd quoted Mehta in the London Times. Commenting on the book for the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Gerald W. Johnson observed, "It is extraordinary when a man at twenty-three has the material for an autobiography that deserves the serious attention of the intelligent, and still more extraordinary when a man so young can present his material in an arresting fashion…. Mehta has both material and ability."
Three years after Face to Face came Walking the Indian Streets, Mehta's memoir of his two-month-long visit to India after a ten-year absence. Maureen Dowd recorded in the New York Times Magazine how Mehta idealized his native country during those years by listening to Indian music and dreaming about an arranged marriage to a beautiful Punjabi girl. The India Mehta encountered, however, disturbed him and shattered his idealistic vision. "Everywhere I went, I was assaulted by putrid odors rising from the streets, by flies relentlessly swarming around my face, by the octopus-like hands of a hundred scabrous, deformed beggars clutching at my hands and feet. My time in the West had spoiled me and I could now hardly wait to get back," Mehta wrote of his experience.
While he wrote numerous books on the politics and culture of a changing modern India during the twelve years following the 1960 publication of Walking the Indian Streets, Mehta eventually turned once more to the autobiographical form and began disclosing his life in very small chunks, developing the years of his earlier autobiography Face to Face into several volumes and then proceeding to cover new ground. The biographical/autobiographical Daddyji and Mamaji describe his parents' lives before he was born. Both books are noted for their adept presentations of the middle-class family in India. "[Daddyji's] value," commented P.K. Sundara Rajan in the Saturday Review, "lies in the fact that … Mehta transforms an individual experience into one that is universal." In his New York Times Book Review assessment of Mamaji, Clark Blaise wrote that "family is the tidiest metaphor for the vastness of India. To understand its compelling and often terrible hold is to possess a special understanding of the culture…. Mehta patiently delivers that understanding and courageously presents it without interpretation, limiting even its expected 'warmth' in the service of a sharper clarity." It is also with these two books that "Mehta draws a sharp contrast between his rational, decisive, tough-minded, Western-educated, physician father and his superstitious, backward, uneducated, childish, tender-hearted mother," remarked Malcolm.
The author followed the biographical portraits of his parents with Vedi, which begins with Mehta boarding a train for the Bombay school for the blind, located 1,300 miles from his home. Mehta recounts his years at the Dadar School from age five to eight. In a London Times article, Philip Howard stated that "without sentimentality or self-pity [Mehta] recreates that vanished and alien world in one of the richest works of memory of our century." Though Mehta was frequently fighting disease, reviewers comment on how effectively this well-to-do boy adapted to his slum-like surroundings. Blaise notes in the New York Times Book Review that Vedi "is clearly a mature work…. Readers of the two earlier volumes of family biography [Daddyji and Mamaji] will find less of the overt 'India experience' in 'Vedi,' and more of the dreamlike landscape of childhood. The touch and smell of parents, the test of wills, nightmares, pets."
"Now I want to proclaim this autobiography as nothing less than a literary masterpiece," declared Times Literary Supplement contributor R.K. Narayan of Mehta's memoir The Ledge between the Streams. Howard wrote that in The Ledge between the Streams "nothing much happens; except the most important thing in the world, a child growing up to accept life and enjoy the world." The Ledge between the Streams encompasses Mehta's years from age nine to fifteen. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani characterized the Mehta described in this memoir as a "clumsy blind boy, plucky but hopelessly gauche when it came to participating in … fun and games—flying kites, riding bicycles and ponies, playing hide-and-seek…. In any case, having spent the first half of 'The Ledge' documenting the innocent world of his youth,… Mehta then goes on to show how that world was destroyed by the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan," an event that "turned many families, including … Mehta's own, into political and religious refugees. It is this depiction of the partition, as filtered through the sensibility of a 12-year-old boy, that distinguishes 'The Ledge' as a memoir." What reviewers also found successful about The Ledge between the Streams is the fact that the reader forgets its author is blind, which is precisely Mehta's goal. Mehta moves into his adolescent years with Sound-Shadows of the New World, the account of his first three years in the United States at the Arkansas School for the Blind. According to Mary Lutyens in the Spectator, "the vivid, detailed descriptions of this homesick boy's gradual adaptation to an alien culture are uplifting and enthralling," while Ackroyd believed "the single most important quality of the young … Mehta was his courage; Sound-Shadows of the New World is a record of that courage." Ackroyd continued, "Mehta records his life as if his fall into blindness had broken open his perception so that nothing escapes him, and his account has a clarity that is sometimes like clairvoyance … he sees the world very clearly; he describes it so carefully, and yet from such an oblique angle, that in parts it is rather like reading some compelling travelogue of an unknown country." This autobiography reveals how the boy who did not know how to eat with a fork and knife when he first arrived in America eventually became president of the student senate and editor of the school newspaper, an experience that convinced him of his desire to become a journalist.
The next installment in the "Continents of Exile" series is The Stolen Light. Beginning when the author is eighteen years old, the book chronicles his years at college during the 1950s when he comes of age and launches himself as a writer. Blind and newly emigrated from India, Mehta "poignantly conveys the agony of wanting to fit into the rigidly coded world of a small American college," wrote Susan Allen Toth in the New York Times Book Review. Praising the author's "self-deprecating honesty, scrupulous memory and finely honed perceptions," the reviewer found The Stolen Light "awe-inspiring" and a "remarkable story of indefatigable energy and determination."
Up at Oxford recounts the author's undergraduate years at Oxford University in England. An outsider on a number of levels, Mehta nevertheless adapted well at Oxford and graduated with honors. He describes his years at the university's Balliol College from his foreign perspective, exploring the gulf between the university's wealthy public-school boys and its less-privileged grammar-school boys; detailing the formal dress and rigid social mannerisms that still prevailed during his period there—1956 to 1959; and remarking on the college's storied past, with its generation after generation of famous graduates. Reviewing the work in Spectator, Bevis Hillier noted: "Written with a stripping-the-willows honesty, [Up at Oxford] joins the apostolic succession of the best Oxford memoirs."
In 1998 Mehta recalled his experiences writing under William Shawn's editorship in Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, reviewing the book in the New York Times, found memoir of the author's three-plus decades at the venerable magazine illuminating, concluding that "if [Mehta] is not so comprehensive as Brandon Gill was in Here at the New Yorker, he sheds far more light on what the magazine was like to work at."
All for Love breaks the chronological order of the "Continents of Exile" series, returning to Mehta's early twenties, shortly after his arrival in New York. He narrates with brutal honesty the bitter pain and anguish of four loves—Gigi, Vanessa, Lola, and Kilty—and how they ultimately brought him to Freudian psychoanalysis. According to Kathleen Norris of the New York Times Book Review, the analyst "helps him understand that the willfulness that had served him so well as 'an Indian in permanent exile, belonging nowhere and everywhere' and had driven him to pursue success against incredible odds, was counterproductive in romance."
Miranda Seymour, writing in the London Sunday Times, explained that Mehta required one condition of each of his four loves: they must understand that, and act as though, his blindness is irrelevant and meaningless. Seymour commented on Mehta's "fatal attraction to a type…. Beauty is one quality shared by the four deities by whom Mehta is in turn obsessed. Cruelty is the other. It comes in the form of a spectacular indifference to the emotional damage they cause…. Love is presented as a trial of endurance, a challenge to his inability to keep up his role as the invincible hero, master of the universe." Seymour found Mehta's approach to relationships intriguing and complex and his confessional tone laudable and found All for Love "remarkable. Mehta is a great stylist; combine this with a story of searing honesty and you have a book that demands an intense response."
Dark Harbor: Building House and Home on an Enchanted Island is Mehta's tenth book in the "Continents of Exile" series. Seduced by his dream of finally putting down roots in the New World, he finds himself buying a fifteen-acre lot of land in the rugged terrain of Dark Harbor. To build his house, Mehta hires architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, famous for designing the IBM Building in New York and museums that include the Walker Art Center in Minnesota. Underlying this narrative is an allegorical tale about Mehta's own struggles as a writer and as a man. Even while constructing the house, he finds himself building another edifice—helping to bring into being an enchantment he had thought might elude him. For the house in Dark Harbor is destined to become a home for the woman he falls in love with and marries and, over the years, the children they have together. The eleventh and final book in the series, The Red Letters, revolves around a great surprise to Mehta, who is asked to assist his father in writing a novel. Mehta soon realizes that the events his father are describing involve an extramarital affair his father had before Mehta was born. The son must accept a new version of his father and by extension, his mother, who has coped with a close friend of hers becoming involved with her husband.
From 1970 to 1982 Mehta wrote four nonfiction books aimed at sketching the social and political milieu of late-twentieth-century India. According to Dowd, Mehta's "reports include vivid descriptions of Indian politics, dinner parties given by the viceroy, the assault of the industrial revolution, the attempts at birth control. His work explores the conflict between East and West in the Indian culture and its mixture of grace and vulgarity." Dowd further recorded professor of modern Indian literature at Columbia University Robin Lewis's estimation that "in a very quiet way,… Mehta is breaking the Western stereotypes and getting America to look at India as something other than a grandiose stage setting. He's taking the raw material of his personal experience and combining it with some of the pains, crises and historical dislocations that India has gone through."
Mehta's Portrait of India, published in 1970, "seems as vast as India" to Stephen Spender in the New York Times Book Review: "it is immensely readable, and the reader not only has the sense of immersion in the sights, scents and sounds of India, he also meets representative people from high and low walks of life." New York Times writer Thomas Lask believed that if the reader can get through the first seventy-five pages, "you will find yourself in a first-class book…. It is surprising how, by the end of the book, the Indian continent has managed to assume a knowledgeable shape and how the problems begin to make sense in terms of the people and the land."
Of Mehta's political books, his 1977 work Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles received the most attention, reviewers stressing that of the several hundred biographies written about the "acclaimed father of India," Mehta's is unique. As the author states in the preface to his book, his desire is "both to demythologize Gandhi and to capture something of the nature of his influence on his followers and the nature of the influence of their interpretations of his life on India." To do this, Mehta traveled to India and England to speak directly with a number of the remaining disciples of Gandhi, something no other biographer had thought to do. As New York Times contributor Paul Grimes remarked, "the interviews make it clear that Gandhi-ism did not survive with them. Some profess to be still propagating the Mahatma's cause, but it is obvious that over the years their interpretations of it have become warped if they ever were otherwise."
Grimes found Mehta's account of Gandhi "much more than a biography," "a remarkable examination of the life and work of a human being who has been extolled around the world as one of the greatest souls of all time." Other reviewers criticized the writer for concentrating too heavily on Gandhi's personal life. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Eric Stokes felt that Mehta, while "busy destroying old myths … is silently weaving a new one of his own…. The ultimate distortion in Mehta's picture of the Mahatma is … that it allows almost no place for the politician." Leonard A. Gordon in the Nation likewise sensed that "Mehta has spent so much time with the private Gandhi, fascinated like his subject with food, sex and hygiene, that we learn almost nothing about the man's great appeal and political skills." Nevertheless, Stokes noted, "Mehta's highly readable book may mark the beginning of a phase when Gandhi is eventually rescued from the hagiographers and given a juster appraisal by his countrymen." In Dowd's interview with Mehta, the writer mentioned his hope that Mahatma's idealism be restored in his native country: "Gandhi had the right vision for a poor country…. What people in India need basically is fertilizer, clean water, good seed, good storage facilities …, and proper sanitation. Those are the priorities. That's what Gandhi taught."
After the 1982 publication of A Family Affair: India under Three Prime Ministers, Mehta did not write again about modern India until the 1994 publication of Rajiv Gandhi and Rama's Kingdom. Containing essays produced during his visits to India between 1982 and 1993, the book again focuses on the social and political troubles of his native land. In the book, he ponders the assassinations during this period of two Indian leaders, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi; explores the continuing government neglect of the hundreds of millions of Indians who live in severe poverty; and describes social and religious issues such as women's rights and Hindu fundamentalism.
Despite his numerous autobiographical works and political tomes, it is as a staff writer on the New Yorker that Mehta is best known in the United States and England. And though to some he may be an easy man to classify, as he explained to Dowd: "I don't belong to any single tradition. I am an amalgam of five cultures—Indian, British, American, blind and [the New Yorker]." Publishers Weekly contributor Stella Dong recorded Mehta's lifelong literary intentions: "I'm not just slavishly following a chronological framework or trying to interpret India or blindness or any of that. All I'm trying to do is to tell a story of not one life, but many lives and through those stories, to try to say something that's universal."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian American Literature, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 37, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
Mehta, Ved Daddyji, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1988.
Mehta, Ved, Face to Face: An Autobiography, Atlantic-Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1957.
Mehta, Ved, Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles, Viking (New York, NY), 1977, reprinted, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1993.
Mehta, Ved, Mamaji, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979.
Mehta, Ved, Sound-Shadows of the New World, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1986.
Mehta, Ved, Vedi, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Mehta, Ved, The Ledge between the Streams, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1984.
Mehta, Ved, The Stolen Light, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1989.
Mehta, Ved, Up at Oxford, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1993.
Notable Asian Americans, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Atlantic, November, 1963; February, 2002, p. 103.
Booklist, August, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of All for Love, p. 2061.
Book World, May 10, 1970.
Chicago Tribune Book World, May 10, 1970.
Christian Century, December 14, 1966.
Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 1967; October 17, 1970.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 26, 1986.
Guardian Weekly, June 14, 1981.
Journal of Asian Studies, November, 1983.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004.
Library Journal, September 1, 1966; April 1, 1967; August, 2001, Ilse Heidmann, review of All for Love, p. 122.
Listener, September 24, 1970; August 18, 1977.
Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1984, Carolyn See, review of The Ledge between the Streams, p. 6; March 3, 1989, Garry Abrams, "Ved Mehta Ruminates on Rushdie Furor," p. 1.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 2, 1989.
Nation, February 6, 1967; July 2, 1977.
National Review, July 30, 1963.
New Leader, April 10, 1978.
New Republic, May 13, 1967; July 9, 1977.
New Statesman, February 24, 1967; September 25, 1970.
New Statesman & Society, May 19, 1989, p. 26.
Newsweek, December 31, 1962; July 1, 1963; January 17, 1977; January 30, 1978.
New York Herald Tribune Book Review, August 18, 1957, Gerald W. Johnson, review of Face to Face; June 16, 1963.
New York Post, January 10, 1962.
New York Review of Books, June 29, 1967; October 7, 1982, Janet Malcolm, review of Vedi.
New York Times, April 6, 1967; April 25, 1970, Thomas Lask, review of Portrait of India; May 8, 1972; September 3, 1973; March 30, 1977, Paul Grimes, review of Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles; June 11, 1978; October 21, 1979; December 20, 1979; May 1, 1984, Michiko Kakutani, review of The Ledge between the Streams; February 27, 1986; May 18, 1998, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Remembering Mr. Shawn's "New Yorker," p. E8; October 14, 2001, Kathleen Norris, review of All for Love, p. 20.
New York Times Book Review, August 21, 1960, Herbert L. Matthews, review of Face to Face; August 18, 1963; November 13, 1966; April 5, 1970; January 29, 1978; October 21, 1979, Clark Blaise, review of Mamaji; October 17, 1982, Clark Blaise, review of Vedi; May 6, 1984; March 9, 1986; August 30, 1987; March 12, 1989, Sharon Toth, review of The Stolen Light, p. 12; September 12, 1993, p. 28.
New York Times Magazine, June 10, 1984, Maureen Dowd, review of The Ledge between the Streams.
Observer (London, England), March 18, 1962.
Publishers Weekly, January 3, 1986, Stella Dong, interview with Mehta, pp. 57-58; January 27, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Stolen Light, p. 461; June 28, 1993, review of Up at Oxford, p. 61; November 21, 1994, review of Rajiv Gandhi and Rama's Kingdom, p. 60; May 19, 2003, review of Dark Harbor, p. 64.
Reporter, May 4, 1967.
Saturday Review, August 17, 1957; November 12, 1966; April 29, 1967; April 25, 1970; May 20, 1972, P.K. Sundara Rajan, review of Daddyji; January 22, 1977.
Spectator, May 12, 1961; October 4, 1963; July 28, 1984; May 31, 1986, Mary Lutyens, review of Sound-Shadows of the New World; September 25, 1993, Bevis Hillier, review of Up at Oxford, p. 27.
Sunday Times (London, England), August 1, 2002, Miranda Seymour, review of All for Love, p. 341
Times (London, England), October 19, 1972, review of Daddyji, p. E10; June 15, 1977, review of Ma-hatma Gandhi and His Apostles, p. C10; July 5, 1984, Philip Howard, review of Vedi; June 8, 1985; May 15, 1986, Peter Ackroyd, "Light Shining in Darkness"; May 20, 1989, Victoria Glendinning, "Vision of Success."
Times Literary Supplement, December 8, 1966; December 4, 1970, review of Portrait of India; November 19, 1971; August 5, 1977, Eric Stokes, review of Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles; July 4, 1980; May 29, 1981; July 5, 1984, R.K. Narayan, review of The Ledge between the Streams; July 6, 1984, review of Daddyji, Mammaji; May 30, 1986.
Washington Post, December 28, 1982.
Washington Post Book World, January 20, 1980; July 25, 1982; March 9, 1986.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1983.
Ved Mehta Home Page, http://www.vedmehta.com/ (July 27, 2004).