Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Red Letters of Ved Mehta!

I read The Red Letters: My Father's enchanted period of Ved Mehta. I just loved the four pages towards the end of the book where he describes one of his conversations with his mother. It is extremely well written; it brings the flavour of the conversation very vividly on to the pages of the book. Here are a few samples:
Besides, did the Long-Lived One ever tell Babuji that he wanted a bachelor of arts who could toon-toon in English and chirp like a songbrid? If he had, Babujii would have told Doctor Sahib to get a mem and a radio.
Young people nowadays might go in for interviews and whiling away time with each other in coffehouses before they tie the knot, but, in those days, a boy was lucky if he got a chance to glimpse a girl's face before he married her. The Long-Lived One caught sight of my face and he fell for me. You tell me, youngster, was that my fault? It was Doctor Sahib's own wish and desire to have me. I tell you, he couldn't wait to jump onto the wedding mare and carry me off. The Long-Lived One says that as soon as he talked to me on our wedding night his hopes were dashed. Maybe so--who am I to contradict the Long-Lived One?-- but in those early years no one listening to him singing to me and whispering endearments would ever have thought that. In fact, Doctor Sahib used to go around his club and office saying that he had a queen for a wife. Doctor Sahib might have forgotten, but I cannot forget.
You children grew up saying you are Mehtas, but you are just as much Mehras--of course you are sons and daughters of your daddy, but you're just as much grandsons and granddaughters of Babuji.

One of my friends to whom I recommended the section from which the above passages are taken told me it reminded him of Sheila Dhar; and, in our circle, that is the ultimate praise for anybody's writing style-- a nine-on-ten for style, you may say. However, passages of this quality are not many in the book. Also, the anecdotal telling of the story, chronological jumps, and the report-like passages gave a feeling of unevenness and incompleteness to me. Having said that, I would still recommend the book for the fashion in which it deals with the rather sensitive subject matter (of his father's love affair with a married woman in the 1930s).


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