Shobha De tears into Vinod Mehta in India Today

There are two tried and tested formulas for commissioning reviews in the shockingly incestuous bordello of Indian books that has now spread its wings into Indian journalism.

The supposedly dignified formula is to get an author’s friend or associate to do the unctuous needful (say a Khushwant Singh to “review” a David Davidar) so that reputations are protected, nothing damaging is said and everybody gets called for the next orgiastic party.

Its opposite recipe is to get a hired gun who will fire at will (say a Mihir S. Sharma to pump into Suhel Seth) so that the old gasbag is punctured, some buzz is released, and major “trending” happens in blogosphere.

India Today magazine uses the latter technique in the latest issue while belatedly reviewing Outlook* magazine editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta‘s memoirs.

In Lucknow Boy, published nearly three months ago, Mehta gives the sultana of scuttlebutt, former Stardust editor Shobha De, some chosen ones— for not including an introduction to a book she had commissioned him to write and then for not having had the courtesy to inform of it, despite bumping into him off and on, etc.

De has returned the favour in kind (and more) in the India Today review calling the 306-page tome “that’s filled with Delhi style bragging… rather dull”—a loosely strung account of job-hopping full of old-fashioned self-righteousness and tedious justifications:

#What happened? Something obviously got in the way, and let’s blame it on Delhi. Had Mr Mehta continued to live and work in Mumbai, I am certain he would have written a far more readable book.

# Mr Mehta’s sepia-toned recollections may be of some interest to his colleagues and assorted politicos who wish to be featured in the magazine he so ably edits. Give them Sunny Leone‘s unedited life story in ten easy chapters intead—now that’s riveting stuff.

# The biggest letdown in this memoir is the absence of any asli masala….

# The Mumbai Mehta was an amiable chap. He wasn’t boastful. And he could out-bitch anybody in the room. Most of the time, the bitching was about those absent. Everybody laughed—including his highly “intellectual” friends tiresome then, far worse now. But Mr Mehta had not turned as pretentious… nor did he drop names.

# The one magazine Mr Mehta missed editing and he could still do a brilliant job of it, is Stardust.

* Disclosures apply

Illustration: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

It isn’t easy telling tales of even dead editors

Wife-beater? Freeloader? Menace to society?


  1. Why do these Bombayites suffer from such an inferiority complex? This woman reviews a book and all that she can write about is Bombay.

    1. Because everyone knows Bombay is about money and money only. The space for all other pursuits has been outsourced to other cities.

      1. sumit desai

        hehe you guys really have a Bombay complex don’t you.Grow up guys, it remains the best city in the country.

  2. TJ Ravishankar

    Shobha De may have her reasons for her review of Vinod Mehta’s book, but the book is very ordinary, and badly in need of some serious editing. And it does have a lot of irrelevant stuff, as it is unclear whether the momoirs should be strictly professional or include some personal aspects also. He has also felt compelled to make some additional observations, some of which are simply stupid – the chapter on his visit to London had completely uncalled for and horribly ill-informed references to Karl Marx. that said, it is interesting to read because of his editorial stints and what it shows about publishers.

  3. JS Oberoi

    We lok before and after and pine for what is not – Shoba De’s brand of khichdi Mumbai language is fit only for her blogspot. I thought the book was candid, honest and well written. Surely Ms De professional rivalry should not come in the way of an honest review – Mumbaikar’s seem to be suffering from a “jilt” complex.

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