Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
It should not be surprising that Ved Parkash Mehta (MAY-tah) has spent so much of his literary life writing autobiography. On the one hand, Mehta, having lived an unusual multicultural existence spanning East and West, was eminently qualified to depict aspects of Indian history and society for readers of English. On the other hand, Mehta’s own life, revolving around the fact of his blindness, made his experiences—both in India and in the West—personally unique.
This uniqueness is reflected not only in specifically autobiographical writings but also in images he conveyed through fictional situations and figures. The opening chapter of Mehta’s first book, his autobiography Face to Face, dwells on the seeming irony that, in a society which almost has to accept the fact that misfortune often afflicts poverty-stricken masses, the devastating handicap of blindness (as an aftereffect of meningitis when he was three years old) should strike a moderately well-to-do English-educated Indian physician’s family living then in Lahore. A good portion of his family’s efforts to compensate for their son’s blindness was through special, if not to say privileged, educational programs. Many of the human experiences Mehta underwent in his early years of schooling provided material not only for his formal autobiography but also for sketches of Indian society that centered on this very special milieu.
When Mehta was not yet five, the blind...
(The entire section is 1166 words.)
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Ved Mehta has been telling the story of his own life for most of his career. This story includes the cultures in which he has lived. Mehta was born into a well-educated Hindu family in Lahore in 1934. At the age of three he lost his eyesight as a result of meningitis. Mehta’s education took him away from his close-knit family and sent him to places that must have seemed like different worlds: Arkansas in the era of segregation, a college campus in suburban Southern California, and Oxford University. As a staff writer for The New Yorker and in his many books, Mehta makes those different worlds, including the world of blindness, come alive to the reader.
Mehta published his first book, Face to Face, when he was twenty-two. It is a highly readable account of his childhood, of his family’s sufferings during the partition of India (they had to flee their native city when it became part of the new Muslim nation of Pakistan), and of his experiences as a student in America. The central subject, however, is Mehta’s blindness and the ways in which he learns to be independent and successful despite his disability.
For many years after the appearance of Face to Face, Mehta allowed no hint of his disability to appear in his work, which he filled with visual descriptions. He published a novel and became a master of nonfiction. He wrote books introducing Indian culture and politics to Western readers; Mehta has also written a...
(The entire section is 380 words.)