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In 1949, a shy but remarkably self-possessed Indian boy of 15 left New Delhi bound for America. His ultimate destination was the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. Thus begins the fifth volume of Mehta's chronicle of his family and his life (Daddyji et al.). Total blindness had barred him from formal education in India, and this state school was the only one in the US to accept him. Despite its deficiencies and his yearning for his warm close-knit family, young Mehta quickly catches up in his schooling and more gradually learns the ways of the strange land he has come to. He makes friends, learns how to negotiate nearby Little Rock, and even manages a full-time summer job in a local ice-cream factory. Eventually he becomes one of the school's top two students and its first full-term senior class president. Using a form of echolocation he calls ""sound-shadows,"" he moves through a world he cannot see, spurning the blind man's cane and gracefully deflecting helpful souls who try to give him their bus seats or propel him across streets. His goal is to be a whole person, and he chafes against the school's program which motivates the blind to accept their infirmity and trains them for work as musicians, newsstand vendors or piano tuners. All the while his receptive mind is forming impressions of American people and culture as he, in turn, is becoming Americanized. After considerable soul-searching, he even learns how to date--a taboo in Indian society, where sexes are segregated until a marriage can be arranged. He is, in short, Everyman. His touching, often funny and always fascinating odyssey provides us with a unique picture of ourselves in prose as pure and lambent as lake water. At book's end, 18-year-old Mehta is flying to California to join his beloved daddyji, now a visiting Fulbright professor at UCLA medical school. Ahead are college and a successful writing career. Ahead too, so the reader hopes, lies the next volume on the further adventures of this remarkably perceptive writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1985
Publisher: Norton