In this volume of a remarkable life story, Ved Mehta takes us through his college years an adventurous young adulthood in California. After his father a retired Indian-government health official managed to secure the means to enter him in Pomona College, Ved set out to prove himself as a blind student among the sighted. For the first time, he was able to give his intellectual curiosity full play and pursue academic distinction flexing and stretching and moving with newfound independence. Longing for all the normal experiences of the average American student, he joined a fraternity, revived the school s International Relations Club, wrote for the school newspaper, and even bought a car. There were girls, too: Mandy, who shared a class with him at summer school in Berkeley; Phyllis, who caught him up in an emotional drama of her own making; and Mary, a deeply Christian Southerner, who taught him that being cerebral needn t prevent him from being tender. Nevertheless, he remained something of an outsider and continued to be dogged by the prediction of experts made even before he ventured to America for a high-school education that he would be culturally maladjusted, unsuited to life in either India or America. But, never for a moment accepting limits, Ved seized all the knowledge and all the glory he could, though always with a sense of stealing something that the world never intended him to have. Mrs. Ethel Clyde, a mercurial, globe-trotting Socialist millionaire, who was his father s patient and friend, helped support Ved s education and gave him the money to spend two summers writing an autobiography. At first, Ved saw the project only as a way of making a bid for the affections of the most important girl Johnnie, his reader, his amanuensis, his friend, and his real love, who always remained romantically beyond his grasp. But by the time the book was on paper, a rough yet promising beginning, he had taken a big step toward coming to terms with his extraordinary situation and creating a future for himself as a writer. Telling of experiences wonderful and tragic, love fulfilled and unfulfilled, and journeys sexual and scholarly, this is a lyrical narrative of an unusually talented youth s coming of age. Ved Mehta recounts in touching detail how he reconciled conflicting cultural forces and forged a world of his own, an amalgam of East and West, Raj and California, learning and writing, daring and hoping. He shows how it felt to be poor and lonely and thoughtful and driven in a period that was as rich and fertile and sunny and languid as California itself. In fact, the book can be read not just as an intimate memoir of the author s college years but also as a social history of the sanguine American fifties.
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