Gita Mehta was born in Delhi in 1943 to a family extremely active in the struggles for Indian liberation from Britain. She is the daughter of Biju Patnaik, a famous Indian freedom fighter who later became the major political leader of the Eastern state of Orissa. At her birth, Mehta's grandmother demanded that she be named Joan of Arc, as a child born into a community of freedom fighters who were often forced to go underground as a result of their political actions. But instead, she was named Gita (translated "song"), as in song of freedom. Only several weeks after Mehta's birth, her father was imprisoned for his political activity. Growing up, she was surrounded by her parent's active struggle for Indian liberation. At the age of three, she and her brother were sent to a boarding school while her mother followed her father from one jail to the next. Mehta was educated in India and the United Kingdom. While attending Cambridge University, she met fellow student Ajai Singh Mehta. The two married and have one son. Mehta and her husband "Sonny," the president of Alfred A. Knopf publishing house, currently maintain residences in New York, London and Delhi, spending at least three months of every year in India. As a result of Sonny Mehta's prominent position in New York's publishing industry, the couple are a central figure in New York's literary publishing world.