Jaya Mehta was born Jaya Patel in Vadodara in 1933. Because her father was a businessman, her family traveled quite a bit with him to places like Vadodara, Mumbai, and even East Africa, where she spent a year and a half of her childhood. Mainly, however, her family lived in Mumbai.
During the time of Partition, Mrs. Mehta was 14 years old. Her father had a strict rule—education first, everything else after. Thus some of the younger Patel siblings, the students in her family, were even sent to Baroda by her father during that tumultuous time to continue studying. Mrs. Mehta recalls though that her elder sisters, who were married and had already completed their studies, were involved as activists during Independence. Following the news and advice of the Indian National Congress, they bought a spinning wheel to spin as much yarn as they could and had it woven into saris. Mrs. Mehta recalls that her sisters would also attend some of the protests and rallies, and courted arrests and short jail terms. “In Bombay, we would house and care for volunteers who came to attend big rallies at the famous Gowalia Tank Maidan which happened to be close to where we lived. Some of them needed extra care to get over the beating from ‘lathi charge’ (beating with a long wooden stick), a very common way of trying to disperse the crowd at such rallies and protests,” Mrs. Mehta remembers.
Mrs. Mehta’s fondest memories are rooted in Mumbai: it is where she met and married her husband, where she sang on the radio and modeled saris, and where she gave birth to her daughter.