March 21, 1934 – January 9, 2021
by Bashir Masoodi
Ved Mehta, a prolific American writer and famous blind scholar, passed away on January 9th, 2021 at his residence in Manhattan, N.Y. He was 86.
Mehta was born in the city of Lahore, formerly British India, on March 21, 1934. After receiving some elementary instruction in an orphanage for blind children, his father (a doctor) was able to get him admitted to St. Dunstan’s Center for War-Blinded Veterans at Debra Dun, India, where for the first time he learned braille and touch typing. He wrote dozens of letters to educational facilities in America, Britain, Russia and China and others. The Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock was the only one that responded and admitted him. He learned English and graduated in 1952 to pursue degrees at Pomona College in California and the University of Oxford (England) before getting a master’s degree at Harvard.
Meanwhile his autobiographic book, “Face to Face,” was received with high acclaim by most literary circles. William Shawn, editor of “The New Yorker” magazine, offered him the position of staff writer in 1961, which he held until 1994. He also received a MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “Genius Grant” in 1982).
He was a very popular writer for the magazine. He also wrote several books introducing India to the American reader. Many are available from NLS.
Mehta was blind since age of three from meningitis. His writings were so detailed that some, including author Norman Mailer, thought he had some sight, but he was totally blind. He traveled in India, England and the U.S., especially in New York City, without a cane, guide dog, or sighted guide. He negotiated various travels on his own. It is said that he had very keen hearing, which a small percentage of blind people have and which helps them in mobility. He was not comfortable with his blindness, they say, in spite of his great achievements. He is reported to have remarked that even his parents had not accepted his blindness in spite of his fame and achievements. He is survived by his wife, Lynn Cary Mehta, two daughters and two grandchildren.