Gita Mehta was born in Delhi, into a well-known political family. Her father, Biju Patnaik, was a freedom fighter and a longtime political leader of Orissa. She was educated in India and at Cambridge, where she met her husband Ajai Mehta who is currently the president of Knopf. She lives in New York, London and Delhi, and spends at least three months of every year in India. As a non-fiction writer, Ms. Mehta is lean, sharp, caustic, and witty. She gets deep into the heart of the matter, and doesn't hold off on personal opinion. In her lifetime she has produced and directed 14 television documentaries for UK, European and U.S. networks. During the years 1970, 1971, she was a television war correspondent for the US television network NBC as well. Her film compilation of the Bangladesh revolution, Dateline Bangladesh, was shown in cinema theatres both in India and abroad. Her books have been translated into 21 languages. Those were on the bestseller lists in Europe, the US and India. Her works reflect the insight gained through her journalistic and political background.
'Snakes and Ladders: A View of Modern India' by Gita Mehta is indeed portentous, anecdotal, and loosely attached to the finer details of fact. This is not a huge volume of Indian history 1900-2000. It's just a light little book of pleasant essays, many of them having appeared in magazines. The general tone of the book is very interesting, it's the tone of someone not exactly willing to write a rousing patriotic hymn to their country, but yet still wanting to express quite a bit of hope about the prospects of continued democracy there. Frankly, that makes it refreshing to read. One who does not know anything about modern India can learn a lot from these breezy essays. For a casual reader, the essays are very entertaining and informative too. The effect is that of reading several short travelogues about India all in a row. Mehta writes well and makes some sharp observations about India's political development.
Being published by one of the famous publishing house Anchor in the year of 1998 'Snakes and Ladders: A View of Modern India' is written by Gita Mehta who is an exceptional writer to manage and combine fact and emotion in a series of eloquent essays.