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Ved Mehta, who has been known chiefly for his reports on the
ideas and personalities of contemporary philosophers, historians,
and theologians, has, in Delinquent Chacha, written his
first novel. It is the story of a rascally, improvident, unquenchable,
and ultimately enchanting middle-aged IndianAnglophile,
card-player, dreamerwho spent his early years under the
British raj and, finding himself deep in nostalgia now that India
is independent, wants nothing so much as to turn himself into
an English gentleman. To accomplish his purpose, he sets out for
England with a view to becoming an undergraduate at Oxford and
a club-man, finds what he assumes to be a temporary job as a porter
at the All India Taj Mahal Curry, Chutney, and Soup Restaurant
in London, allows himself to be persuaded that he has been honored
with the title Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George,
has himself opulently outfitted in Regent Street, gets into trouble
with the law for befuddling his tailors, and defends himself in
the courtroom with an eloquent mixture of Indian and British logic.
Mr. Mehta has done something that has rarely been done in fiction
in recent years: he has invented a large-scale comic character.
On the surface, the novel is farcefirst-rate farcebut
there is more than surface. Beneath all the antic incident, there
is a rustle of fresh, witty comment on East and West.
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