Veteran scribe launches memoir with view on politics, society

Updated: Nov 10, 2011, 18:31 PM IST

New Delhi: Irreverence, wit, humour and laughter marked the launch of renowned journalist Vinod Mehta`s autobiography "Lucknow Boy", that details the life of a journalist in India.

Over a span of one hour Mehta, recounted to the audience here last evening, numerous stories related to his personal life as well as those that got into print in various publications that he had helmed over a career spanning 40 years.

"I can`t pretend that I have a nice nose for stories but what I do have is an instinct for frauds. For example when Nira Radia came to visit me, when she came through the door I thought `here comes calamity.` There was something I felt about the lady which was not comfortable," Mehta told moderator and journalist Arnab Goswami who was in conversation with the author after releasing the book.

The author recounted his encounter with controversial corporate lobbyist Nira Radia.

His autobiography provides a ringside view into major events of the times,

Mehta recalled that as an editor he regretted publishing the story about the alleged mole in Indira Gandhi`s cabinet.

"In 1971 it was said that there was a CIA mole in Indira Gandhi`s cabinet. Now at that time Rajiv was the Prime Minister some people in RAW wrote a letter to Rajiv Gandhi saying that Moraji Desai was not the person you have got the wrong person, it is Y Chauhan.

"I knew that I had made a mistake to the extend that I didn`t have any great evidence for that story although I did
have the letter written by RAW," said the editor.

When asked about his decision to write his memoir Vinod Mehta said he wanted to tell his story.

"Like all editors I have traveled a lot, have had a very exciting personal life and I have learned things on the job.
so I decided to write about them," said Mehta.

Growing up in Lucknow in 1950`s Mehta left home with a BA third class degree and experimented with a string of jobs including that of a factory hand in suburban Britain before accepting an offer to edit "Deboanir," which was best known for its raunchy photographs.

Over the next few decades, Mehta launched several publications including the legendary "Sunday Observer" and the weekly newsmagazine "Outlook."

The memoir published by Penguin Viking recounts his encounters with personalties from the world of politics, business, films and the media with pen portraits of personalities ranging from Shobhaa De to V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Sonia Gandhi.

Mehta also referred to cricket match fixing scandal and his recounting of how he came to adopt his pet dog which he subsequently christened `Editor`, due to its infuriating mannerisms had the audience in splits.

When asked Mehta said that politicians and journalists could never be friends in the conventional sense.

"I believe we cannot be friends because fundamentally we follow two different vocations. Politicians are in the business of embellishments, spin, and sometimes in the business of telling lies, whereas as journalists we are in the profession of trying to arrive at an independent version of what things are like."

Present during the launch were many politicians like D Raja, Natwar Singh and Kamal Nath among others.