It’s the birthday of Ved Mehta who said: “Deprivation often makes a writer.” This was posted in Writer’s Almanac today. I’d never heard of this writer.
Born in Lahore, India (now Pakistan) in 1934. When he was four years old, he contracted a form of meningitis that caused him to go blind. He said: “In India, one of the poorest countries the world has ever known, the lot of the blind was to beg with a walking stick in one hand and an alms bowl in the other. Hindus consider blindness a punishment for sins committed in a previous incarnation.” But his father was a doctor who thought that his son should have the same opportunities as everyone else, so he sent him to schools that served blind people. One of these was a school for soldiers who had been recently blinded during World War II, and there, Mehta learned to type. With this new skill, he sent letters to every school he could find in England and the United States, and the Arkansas School for the Blind accepted him.
So he left India at the age of 15, and he ended up getting scholarships and attending Pomona, Oxford, and Harvard. While he was at Harvard, someone offered to introduce him to William Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker. Mehta wasn’t really sure what The New Yorker was but he decided to have tea with Shawn, who ended up inviting the 25-year-old to write an article for the magazine. Mehta gave up his fellowship at Harvard to become a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he stayed for almost 35 years.
From the beginning, he was enamored of Shawn, and years later, after his mentor’s death, he published Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker (1998), a memoir of his years there. In it, he wrote about Shawn: “I fell completely under the spell of his manner – kind, courtly, respectful, and patient. The editing process was arduous and time-consuming, since there was hardly a paragraph that was not touched. Yet he made our work, which could so easily have degenerated into a power play, intensely pleasurable. All the while, I felt that he was sensitizing me to the force and the importance of each word – to its weight, tone, and texture – and was teaching me new ways not only of writing but also of thinking, feeling, and speaking.”
Ved Mehta is the author of many books, including Face to Face (1957), Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles (1977), and most recently, All For Love (2002), a memoir of sorts about his love affairs with four different women.
He said, “I didn’t want to be a blind writer. I wanted to be a writer who is blind.”
I want to read, All For Love. Sounds like a very interesting guy.