Vedi Essay - Critical Context

Ved Mehta

Critical Context

While Vedi stands on its own merits, it is the first part of an ongoing autobiographical project and has to be seen within that framework. The thirteen-hundred-mile trip from his home in the Punjab to the school in Bombay was only the beginning of a lifelong odyssey. Still a child, Mehta went on to a school for the blind in Arkansas, before going on to a successful college career at Pomona, Oxford, and Harvard, preparatory to becoming a writer. Intending to chronicle his entire life, Mehta recognizes that the labor and time needed for each book means that he may never bring the story up to the time of its writing. Moreover, some critics, such as Carol Sternhell, acknowledge the heroism of the undertaking while questioning the need for such extensive self-absorption, suggesting that such self-indulgence will get tiring long before the project is done.

Also problematic is the book’s depiction of India. It is not surprising that Clark Blaise can say about a book by a man who has written so much on his native country that, “Being blind in colonial India . . . is a kind of personal reflection of the handicap and dependence of the nation itself.” This parallel is not, however, made explicit in the book, and Mehta has said that his autobiography is not intended to explain India to Westerners but to be read like a novel. Though Vedi deals extensively with life in India and differences between Eastern and Western attitudes, Mehta restricts his perspective to a very personal one. A self-styled archaeologist of his own life, Ved Mehta insists that he is content to let the sociologists explain India.