The World of Literature Lost A Bright Star

From War Reporting to Giving Life to The Social, Cultural and Political Realities of India: The Era of Gita Mehta Comes To An End

Bhubaneswar: To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure – this quote of J.K. Rowling best suits to Gita Mehta who left for her heavenly abode yesterday. With the sad demise of one of India’s finest writers and war correspondents, an era has come to an end. The versatile writer who was also a journalist and documentary filmmaker will be remembered for her creations that brought insightful and nuanced works exploring the complex social, cultural, and political realities of India. Mostly written in the later part of the 20th Century, Gita Mehta’s writings were characterized by honesty, compassion, and sharp intellect as she was closer to the realities of the society. Her depiction of difficult subjects showed her sensitivity and grace.

Born in 1943 to legendary Odia freedom fighter and political leader Biju Patnaik and Gyana Patnaik, Gita had a full life enriched in Delhi and outside the country. She was younger to Prem Patnaik and elder to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. With her academic career in India and the University of Cambridge, she was having a global perspective in all her writings and creations. A rare distinction for a lady of that time, she began her career as an acclaimed journalist in the 1960s. She worked for several prestigious publications, and also worked as a correspondent for American television network NBC during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Her Documentary series Dateline Bangladesh was much acclaimed.

Gita Mehta’s first literary creation – Karma Cola, which was published in 1979, got critical acclaim and established her as a fine writer. The non-fiction work explores the impact of Western culture on India. The book was a critical and commercial success and topped the charts. Some of her notable works include Raj – A novel about the last days of British rule in India; Snakes and Ladders – A non-fiction work that explores the lives of ordinary people in India; A River Sutra – A non-fiction work that explores the relationship between the Narmada River and the Indian people; and Eternal Ganesha: From Birth to Rebirth.

In addition to her writings, Gita Mehta has also produced and directed several documentaries about India. Her films have been screened at major film festivals around the world and have won numerous awards. She was an accomplished writer who has made significant contributions to Indian literature and culture. Her powerful voice always called for social justice and equality.

Gita Mehta comes from a respectable family that has been contributing for the cause of the country. Starting from father Biju Patnaik, mother Gyana Patnaik and younger brother and current Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik, and elder brother Prem Patnaik, all have had an impact on her. Her husband Sonny Mehta was a renowned New York Publisher who passed away in the year 2019.

Among the three siblings, Gita had a very loving heart towards younger brother and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. After Naveen Patnaik became the Chief Minister of Odisha, Gita regularly visited him at the Naveen Niwas and had last attended his swearing in ceremony in 2019. Keeping in view her brother’s position and the ensuing elections, in 2019, she respectfully declined to receive the Padma Shri award from the Government of India.

With her demise, an era of meaningful literature that depicted the India of that times has ended. May her soul rest in peace.

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