DADDYJI by Ved Mehta


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Nobody writes a purer sentence in the English language than Indian born Ved Mehta whose family came from the fertile, brutal country of the Punjab. This goes back (beyond Face to Face) more than 100 years in search of his antecedents but mostly it tells the story of his father, Daddyji, who left a primary school in the village for further education in the city, at first under a rigid, unloved uncle, and later at Government College -- ""Are we then, to be less than maharajas?"" A gregarious, energetic, handsome man, Daddyji went on to complete medical school, spent a year in England and returned there later, was given a fellowship to Rockefeller Foundation, but settled down to raise his own family and undertake the education of his siblings. The parts about his marriage to a young girl who met none of his designated criteria (no English -- no music) and kept chanting mantras while Daddyji was off to the club (high stake card games) is particularly appealing. The book ends with young Ved's nearly fatal meningitis and resultant blindness. Mehta's memoir has considerable character -- a sense of high caste innocence and pride, practical wisdom, blood loyalties, and a resolve which transcends that older imperative -- fate. Thus at the age of five, Ved was sent 1000 miles away to a school for the blind with Daddyji's parting words -- ""You're a man now.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1972
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux