(1943- ) novelist
Gita Mehta was born in Delhi, India. Her parents were deeply involved in India’s political struggle for independence against the British. Her father, Biju Patnaik, is one of India’s most famous freedom fighters who went on to become the political leader of the state of orissa, India. Mehta was sent to boarding school at an early age, as both her parents were constantly in and out of jail due to their political activities.
Mehta was educated in India and England, and her novels reflect her preoccupation with the ongoing relationship between Western and Eastern cultures. She explores this theme in her nonfiction book Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East (1979) in which she looks into the fascination that Eastern cultures hold for “hippies” from the West. As the title suggests, the novel is based on global economy and explores the commodification of one culture by the other.
Her first fictional work, Raj: A Novel (1989), is a historical novel about a young girl from a noble family who comes of age during the British Raj. Through her experiences, it becomes obvious that the roots of British and Indian culture cannot be easily untangled in colonial India, especially among the privileged classes who have benefited from British education. What develops alongside the maturity of the heroine is India’s own birthing process into independence from the British. Mehta’s latest work, Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India (1997), further explores aspects of India’s change after its independence.
In addition to writing novels, Mehta is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. She has directed four films on the Bangladesh war and one on the Indo-Pakistan war for the BBC and NBC.
Another Work by Gita Mehta
A River Sutra. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
A Work about Gita Mehta
Byer, Kathleen Collins. “The Lama and the Vanaprasthi: Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and Gita Mehta’s A River Sutra.” In A. L. McLeod, ed., The Literature of the Indian Diaspora: Essays in Criticism. New Delhi: Sterling, 2000.