Review: Personal Score – Zubin Mehta

Don’t look for cheap thrills in Zubin Mehta’s autobiography

By Rekha Dixit

I thought it would be hypocritical to write about how good I am, so I’ve been very candid in my autobiography,” said Zubin Mehta before the launch of the English version of his autobiography, The Score of My Life (Roli Books, 201 pages, Rs 395) in Mumbai.  Ever since this statement, there’s been a clamour among people to read those “candid” bits. But those looking for juicy tidbits should look elsewhere. The book is, just like its author, much about music.

Personal insights come incidentally, though not central to the autobiography. It’s the one page in the book that’s cathartic, and must have been very difficult to write. The page in which he mentions his two children out of wedlock-Alexandra, who was conceived between his two marriages, and his Israeli son Ori, 18, the outcome of an affair that he acknowledges must have caused his wife great hurt. It’s not easy to confess the injustice done to a spouse in the same breath as taking parental pride in the existence of a strapping young son about to join the army. But Mehta does it with an elegance that’s touching and dignified. No cheap thrills between the pages of this book.

 

“The book was written originally in German in 2006, because a publisher from Munich had approached me to write it,” he said. When Roli evinced interest in it, he immediately got cracking on updating the draft and writing it for an Indian audience. “I spent the greater part of my vacation in August doing the book. I am nervous about how it will be received.”

Mehta was in his element in Mumbai. There were old friends around him-schoolmate Ratan Tata for instance. He could lapse into Gujarati, which  he did every now and then, much to the appreciation of the largely Parsi gathering, beaming at their “aapro Zubin”.  He was in the city of his birth, and his righteous Parsi indignation came to the surface when he began talking about what has happened to his Bombay. “The beautiful sea front outside my house in Cuffe Parade is now a dirty fishing village. I have nothing against fishing villages, but they can be more aesthetic, can’t they?” Mehta did condone the lack of “aesthetic responsibility” that he found apparent in the new rash of skyscrapers changing Mumbai’s skyline.

“But cities change,” he reasoned philosophically, recalling that even the Mumbai he remembered as charming from his childhood was often criticised by his parents, who were nostalgic about another era in the city’s life. His parents are still a strong influence over him, and this came out inadvertently as Mehta got misty-eyed, saying almost to himself, “Wish my father were around today to see the show in his memory.” The occasion was his father’s birth centenary.

It was more than a show, by the way, almost a “mini festival of western classical music”, as he called it. Mehta was here with his favourite Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to pay tribute to his legendary father, Mehli Mehta, with five concerts in the city. Big names like Daniel Barenboim, violinist Pinchas Zukerman, soprano Barbara Frittoli and tenor Placido Domingo are part of the team. “They are all performing voluntarily. Even the orchestra is playing without remuneration for four concerts,” he said.

The funds, he hoped, will go towards his dream of setting up an academy of western classical music in the city. “I want to bring in good teachers from abroad and India to train our youngsters, so that they will not have to go abroad to learn and earn in this field,” he said.

The audience would have loved him to keep talking about his favourite subjects-Mumbai, cricket and music. But the lunch hour approached, and he ravenously followed his nose to the other love of his life-food.

Original article here