New York: Celebrated Indian-American novelist Ved Mehta, who overcame blindness and became widely known as the 20th-century writer most responsible for introducing American readers to India, died at his home here at the age of 86.
The New Yorker magazine, where he had been a staff writer for 33 years, reported that Mehta died on Saturday.
Born in pre-partition Lahore to a well-off Punjabi family in 1934, Mehta lost his eyesight when he was three years old to meningitis. He, however, did not let his impairment get in the way of a flourishing career or stop him from showcasing his literary prowess to the world.
He was determined to apprehend the world around him with maximal accuracy and to describe it as best he could.
"I felt that blindness was a terrible impediment, and that if only I exerted myself, and did everything my big sisters and big brother did, I could somehow become exactly like them," he wrote.
Best known for his 12-volume memoir, which focused on the troubled modern history of India and his early struggles with blindness, Mehta's 24 books included volumes of reportage on India, among them "Walking the Indian Streets" (1960), "Portrait of India" (1970) and "Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles" (1977), as well as explorations of philosophy, theology and linguistics.
"Daddyji" was the first installment in what was to become a 12-volume series of autobiographical works, known collectively as "Continents of Exile." "Ved Mehta has established himself as one of the magazine's most imposing figures," The New Yorker's storied editor William Shawn, who hired him as a staff writer in 1961, told The New York Times in 1982.
"He writes about serious matters without solemnity, about scholarly matters without pedantry, about abstruse matters without obscurity," Shawn had said.
The recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 1982, Mehta was long praised by critics for his forthright, luminous prose - with its "informal elegance, diamond clarity and hypnotic power," as The Sunday Herald of Glasgow put it in a 2005 profile, the New York Times reported on Sunday.