8 March 2015

Vinod Mehta was a Lucknowi Nawab with a Punjabi heart and English humour

I have never spoken to Vinod Mehta, though sat next to him once at a lunch at the Italian ambassador's residence. At this point, I found his proximate presence a bit curt. But I have very fond memories of my trainee days at the Times of India. I would wait eagerly every weekend for the Sunday Observer , rush to the news stand to buy and devour what he was doing with a weekly newspaper, and hang out with its then staffers like the late Rajiv Tiwari and Kajal Basu-- and it is from there, and not the Old Lady of Bori Bunder, that I learnt what ELSE could be done in journalism. And then I saw him do some more at India Post. And then some more at The Independent, and then at Outlook. All from a safe distance, but with close scrutiny. One of those rare characters  who could write with depth and seem casual at the same time -- and could balance a biography of Meena Kumari that he managed early in his career before joining M.J. Akbar and Arun Shourie in blazing a new trail in journalism in the 1980s -- which was to the media what the 1960s was to Bollywood music. Some of the Nawabi attitude of Lucknow and English humour had definitely rubbed off on the Punjabi. A nice combination, I should think. RIP

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