A prayer meeting was held in the capital’s Arya Samaj Mandir for journalist, writer and arts patron Uma Vasudev, who died on March 27. Vasudev, who was one of the early editors of the India Today magazine, leaves behind a broad legacy of work. Besides her patronage of the arts, Vasudev was known for the books she authored, versatile both in form and content. From an erotic novel, The Song of Anasuya (1978), to a Hariprasad Chaurasia biography, Romance of the Bamboo Reed (2005), Vasudev covered a fair expanse of the literary landscape.
“It is a huge loss for the arts world. She was an exceptional patron of the arts — a constant sounding board for young artists like me,” said Bharatanatyam dancer and Padma Shri awardee Prathibha Prahlad.
Dr Padma Seth, one of the first members of the National Commission for Women in the early 1990s, and Vasudev’s friend for over four decades, said, “She was one of the most large-hearted, affectionate human beings I knew. Of course she was always a prolific, versatile writer, a public intellectual, but more than all of that, she was a trusted friend.”
Vasudev came to be known as a political writer-commentator after her three books on Indira Gandhi. She wrote Indira Gandhi: Revolution in Restraint in 1975, and followed it up with Two Faces of Indira Gandhi, published in 1977. Her daughter, Kamia, said, “My mother wanted to call it Two Phases, but the publisher at the time changed the title to Two Faces without any intimation. She was really upset about that. She eventually developed a pictorial book on Indira Gandhi, Courage Under Fire, in 2003.”
Vasudev, Kamia said, was “an extremely kind, non-judgmental, beautiful person”. Though she straddled various interests, politics always attracted Vasudev the most, Kamia said, adding: “I did ask her at one point why she doesn’t join politics. But all she said was, ‘I can’t be bound by anything’.”
Acclaimed critic and artist Aruna Vasudev said she remembers her elder sister as a role model for herself and for other women. “At a time when women weren’t even working, she went ahead and carved a career for herself. She used to advise me constantly even then, ‘Don’t just get married, do something for your career’,” said Aruna.