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VED MEHTA: Deprivation often makes a writer. I was born, in 1934, into a Hindu family in India. When I was a couple of months short of my fourth birthday, I lost my sight as the result of an attack of cerebrospinal meningitis. In India, one of the poorest countries the world has ever known, the lot of the blind was to beg with a walking stick in one hand and an alms bowl in the other. Hindus consider blindness a punishment for sins committed in a previous incarnation. But my father, a doctor, tried to fight the superstition and give me an education, like his other children, so that I could become, as he used to say, a self-supporting citizen of the world."

MORE-Sightless in a Sighted World