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A New Yorker around town

books Updated: Nov 05, 2009 18:17 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
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Last Tuesday Ved Mehta, the Lahore-born American memoirist and former staff writer of the venerable New Yorker magazine, was seen in south Delhi’s quiet Meharchand market, at the bookstore, CMYK.

Opened last month, the store specialises in coffee table volumes. A little irony here since Mehta could not be expected to enjoy their visual extravaganza. He is blind.

But who had the mood for books when there was wine, cheese, and a famous New Yorker? A protégé of the late William Shawn, The New Yorker’s legendary editor, Mehta had come to sign copies of Mamaji and Daddyji, just two of his 25 books. He was with wife, Linn. Twenty-two years his junior, she was in a royal blue sari. Both husband and wife were friendly, without any pretensions.

They made polite talk with quite a few upper crust Delhiites who had come to see them. There was an interior designer, a photographer, a
magazine publisher, an hotelier, and at least two authors. In the midst of conversations, Mehta would bring his wine glass behind his back, without spilling it.

He is as handy with words. Once Shawn had said, “He (Ved Mehta) writes about serious matters without solemnity, about scholarly matters without pedantry, about abstruse matters without obscurity.” This India-born writer had established a literary reputation in the West when our later superstars like Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth were still to begin their first novels. Arundhati Roy was born the year he got his job at The New Yorker.

Back home in New York, Mehta is known to walk the streets without a cane or a dog. But at CMYK, the author depended on wife Linn — his arm on her shoulder — to navigate his way. After about an hour, the couple left.