The Ved Mehta legend

Jan 13, 2014, 12:09 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

One of India’s best known writers, Ved Mehta, comes to Mumbai today after an absence of many years

>> One of India’s best known writers, Ved Mehta, comes to Mumbai today after an absence of many years. Almost 80 now, he is the author of 27 books and countless essays and articles, most of which appeared in The New Yorker, the fabled literary magazine he worked for, for a record 33 years. (“I left,” he has been quoted saying, “Because Tina Brown terminated me.”)

Ved Mehta

As is known, Ved Mehta’s story is one of great courage and resilience. Born in 1934 in Lahore in undivided India, he went blind at the age of 4 after an attack of meningitis. Given the paucity of educational facilities available for the blind at that time, his father sent him 1,300 miles away to the Dadar School for the Blind. From there he went on to study at Oxford and Harvard, before embarking on a lifetime career of writing.

Anil Dharker

Anil Dharker engages the legend in what should be a scintillating conversation this evening at a ‘Literature Live! Omkar Builders’ evening’ at Olive Restaurant at the Mahalaxmi Race Course.

Making faces at Naipaul
>> And while on the subject of Ved Mehta, we cannot resist sharing this apocryphal story — a diarists’ delight. At an irrevocably literary soiree in Manhattan in the ’80s, (the type Woody Allen perennially spoofs), a horrified hostess was said to have hastily intervened when she found a guest making silly faces, sticking out his tongue, wagging his ears, jiggling his eyebrows at the very distinguished personage of Sir VS Naipaul. “Why on earth are you making faces at VS?” she asked the man.

V S Naipaul

“VS? I thought it was Ved Mehta,” he replied, mortified. “I wanted to test if he was really visually impaired — his books certainly don’t give that impression.”
Anyone familiar with the irascible Mr Naipaul will not be able to resist a giggle at the memory of his consternation at the guest’s imbecilic behaviour.

Emoticon exuberance
>> Increasingly, we find ourselves drawn towards expressing ourselves in emoticons. Simple and direct, emoticons communicate our thoughts with an economy of time and space. And last week, we found ourselves celebrating a minor micro-festival of emoticons — with none other than actor and host of the new TV program Guns and Glory — Kabir Bedi. The occasion was an invitation to his birthday — his 40th ‘since I grew up’.

Kabir Bedi with Parveen Dusanj

“A relaxed fun evening with Parveen and me at our Juhu home,” he texted charmingly. And then, eschewing the usual (and boring RSVP protocol), he added: “Sms me soon, can :) or can’t :(”.

To which we naturally responded with a :smiling face (black and white).

This gave rise to a flurry of many smiley faces between us, until unable to come up with any more, we texted the inevitable: “We have to stop smiling like this.”

And of course, we added a smiley face after that to express that we were signing off but with good cheer.

The Captain’s lock
>> We like Sapna Bhavnani. We like her for her peerless sense of personal style which renders her every moment as performance art; the work she has done with victims of acid attacks; but most of all we like her for throwing herself courageously into the fray of the gender war that’s been raging around us.

Sapna Bhavnani cutting off a lock of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hair

And this weekend, when the hairstylist launched the latest outlet of her franchise the MAD O WOT Hair Temple at Pali Naka, we couldn’t help chuckling over the ingenuity of it all. Because, inspired by the concept of donating a lock of one’s hair at Tirupati, Sapna had created ‘Hair God Ana-an’ in the form of Ardhnarishwar (half man and half woman), to champion the cause of gender equality and, then, had co-opted her friend and famous client, India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, to be the first to sacrifice his precious lock to the deity.


“MAD O WOT Hair Temple is all about letting go of your past and moving forward towards new beginnings by offering a cut lock of hair to Ana-an,” said her spokesperson.

On the rebound?
>> And even as word comes in of Tanisha Mukherjee’s feisty disregard for people’s views on her friendship with Armaan Kohli, we are informed that, perhaps, her fondness for him is on the rebound from her previous relationship.

Tanisha Mukherjee with Armaan Kohli

Apparently, prior to her link-up with Kohli, Mukherjee, who hails from a blue-chip film family, was dating a man six years her junior, with an equally stellar pedigree of his own, albeit in business circles: Laxmi Mittal’s nephew, the son of his wife’s sister, who lives in Mumbai.

Unfortunately, this relationship did not add up to much, as it is said the young man did not have the courage to stand up to his traditional Marwari clan and declare his commitment to the actress.

A pity, if he had the Mukerjee-Kohli liaison would never have happened, and we would have been spared much media and familial venting.

Loony tunes with Brother Eddie
Sometimes, working through the night has its advantages. On Saturday night, as I was writing with the TV on, my attention was distracted to the channel on display, which happened to be Headlines Today. It was around 4 am, an hour I imagine studio heads would have assumed most sane people were asleep, so they had given over their scheduling to a sponsored show featuring the one and only Bro Eddie Villanueva, the Filipino religious, spiritual and political savant whose religious order, Jesus Is Lord Church, is a thing of beauty and the a joy forever.

At first, I was only mildly bemused by what the brother with a shellacked pomade was saying, but when I tuned in, I was torn between rolling on the floor laughing and being shocked at the absurdity of what was enfolding.

Because, it seems the root of all the world’s evil, the solution to all the world’s problems, the basis on which his entire philosophy is predicated is pet dogs in America.

In great detail and with some very dodgy math, Bro Eddie extrapolated on the malignant intentions of American dog lovers, the money squandered, the man hours wasted, and, of course, the ingratitude of dogs. Texts from the Bible were produced to buttress his claim that dog-keeping was evil.

I kid thee not, it was like witnessing an alien invasion. And all this, at 4 am in the morning.

If you have nothing better to do one night, stay up and catch Brother Eddie.

Your life will never be the same again. Woof!

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