Fans of Zubin Mehta and western classical music spread worldwide probably got the best gift of their life in form of his biography named Zubin Mehta- A Musical Journey, which releases on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The book is penned by Bakhtiar Dadabhoy, who, with a day job with the Indian Railways, is himself the highest ranking Parsi civil servant in the whole of India and an accomplished author in his own right, with seven books to his credit.
Mehta said Dadabhoy had told him plainly, that it is not going to be a hagiography, but a balanced account, ” he agreed to his credit,” Dadabhoy exclaims. Mehta goes on to add, ” When I went through the book, (I got to know) the incredible research that this gentleman has done, I didn’t know from where he got all that information from, he went through details of all my orchestras…I read it once and found there is such talk in the book that I had myself forgotten about, he mentions every city of the tour and what I played, if you ask me what tour I did in 1972, I could tell you may be the city, but not the program etc…the book is an encyclopedia (about me).”
Dadabhoy’s romance with Mehta started when he was barely 20 years old. That was when he attended Mehta’s concert at Siri Fort in Delhi on 3rd September and later met him after the concert. ” I met Mr. Mehta in the lobby of Hotel Ashoka in 1984,” exclaims Dadabhoy
Dadabhoy wonders why there have not been many books written on Mehta. There was an early biography by Martin and Ross Yockey, that came in 1978. Then there was a big hiatus, and then there were his memoirs, and then there is, “this small contribution of mine,” says Dadabhoy, self-deprecatingly.
When Mehta is asked, whether he prevented people writing from his biography, of whether he scared them off, he said, “Nobody was as persistent (as Dadabhoy)”
Dadabhoy recounts that he started researching for accounts of Mehta from as way back as 1958, when his name was mentioned in the Time Magazine, he had won the international Liverpool competition. “I accessed thousand plus articles for all sorts of information and incidents on him, like from going through the archives of the Times Magazine, News Week, Los Angeles Times, New York Times (NYT), Washington power and a whole host of newspapers,” Dadabhoy said.
Dadabhoy got a professor of German to translate Mehta’s memoirs too for the biography. He also wrote to people who have been a part of Mehta’s journey, like Peter Marck, lead bassist for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), Avi Shoshani, the inspector general of IPO.
In fact, Zubin acknowledges Dadabhoy’s intense research and goes on to say, ” He really quotes NYT, a lot of it mostly negative, but I didn’t stop him.” While Dadabhoy says he stuck to his guns about not writing a hagiography, but a balanced account and even spoke to Mehta’s childhood friends in addition to all the research to make the biography as all encompassing as possible. Truly, the fans of western classical music and Zubin Mehta couldn’t have any better.