13 June, 2021

A Lakhnawi Flaneur

His firm but unpretentious belief that truthful journalism is its own reward saved Outlook from becoming yet another mouthpiece of a self-serving elite

Narendra Bisht
A Lakhnawi Flaneur

Vinod Mehta achieved a remarkable feat in a career that began just before the leaden age of Girilal Jain and ended in the dissolute epoch of Arnab: he lightened up India’s English-language journalism and simultaneously gave it gravitas.

My own connection with him began nearly 30 years ago. Vinod, then editor of the Sunday Observer, published my brief letter of protest against Anil Dharker’s TV reviews, thrilling my teenaged self beyond measure. My letter contained more adolescent preening than careful thought. I had written it from my dead-end university in Allahabad with the same desperate hope that a stranded man puts with his message in a bottle. Transposed into the Observer’s stylish font, it spoke of a miraculous new possibility.

Years later, Vinod would be at hand again to help redeem it. This time he published, as editor of the Pioneer, my first review-essay. I went on to write many more pieces for him over the next two decades. Typically, Vinod never sought grateful acknowledgment, or even mild concession, for...

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