छिमेकी

know your neighbour

Vinod Mehta: A Memoir

Posted by chimeki on February 1, 2013


Vinod Mehta (right) Tarun TejpalPhoto: V.S.

Vinod Mehta (right) with Tarun Tejpal
Photo: V.S.

Really speaking, I had not imagined that I would meet Vinod Mehta like that. I liked his writing but ever since I had read his memoir Lucknow Boy I started adoring him. In a way, I thought I had found an ideal journalist. A journalist I could follow as an example. But ironically he never was a journalist. He was a born editor.

For Shakespeare, some people were born great; some achieved greatness and some had greatness thrust upon them. He, however, forgot to see that some don’t realize they are great until told or at least until their memoirs are published and praised. I tag Vinod Mehta on the latter category. Although he was an editor nevertheless all his life he struggled to become a writer. He wanted to be known not by what he chose but by what he wrote. Initially, he tried to copy George Orwell and later romanced with VS Naipaul. To learn the art of writing, he offered to pay VS Naipaul’s expensive bills in Five Star hotels. Vinod was kicked out of the job many times but he felt Naipaul was one who ‘was insecure’! So he arranged conveyance for him when the ‘poor’ genius wished to correct India by writing a book or two on it. For conveyance and luxury food was free, Naipaul wrote three.

I met Vinod last year in Jaipur Literature Festival. He had a session where he was to speak on his book. The organizers had arranged the session at Darbar Hall but sensing the anticipation they moved it to Mugal Tent, a huge shamiyana at the lawn of Diggi Palace. For the first time that year they looked wise. People thronged the Tent to see the Lucknow boy. I had taken the first seat at the Darbar Hall so I obviously became the last to reach the new venue. Before I could reach, the Tent was jam-packed. There was no chance I could cut across the crowd and get in, so I decided to become one with many standing there. The moderator of the session Tarun Taijpal had already taken his seat and was shouting at the top of his voice for Vinod. He was saying, ‘we have heard Mr. Vinod Mehta has reached here. Please make way for him.’ Nobody moved. He again screamed. This time people giggled.

Then suddenly I found Vinod Mehta struggling beside me to find his way. There was enough light on the dais to make the lawn darker. His eyes were blinded and he struggled to keep his feet grounded. Once on someone’s toes then on someone’s head. One lady called him drunk and pushed him away. He caught my arm and survived. He was saying, ‘let me go’ to which the people said, ‘he has not come yet.’ ‘I have come’, he answered. The crowed answered back, ‘so have we’. I yelled, ‘he is Vinod Mehta, for God sake’. ‘Then tell him to keep shut for the Lucknow boy has not yet come’, the crowed threatened. I decided to play an old trick of my school days. I threw myself on the crowd. The crowd dismembered but I lost control and fell flat on the ground. Vinod, hurriedly jumped over me and climbed the stage. Though he didn’t look back but he thanked me in style. The session turned out to be the most entertaining event of the festival. People laughed to death. Later, he remembered the session on his Dairy but forgot to mention me. Didn’t Shivaji too forget Madari Mehtar as soon as he crossed the Yamuna.

V.S.

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