Indians Abroad

Anita Desai

Famous As Writer
Born On 14 June 1937
Born In Mussoorie
Nationality Indian

Even before the likes of Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy ushered in new possibilities for Indian-English writers and paved way for their recognition in the global map, there was Anita Desai, one of India's foremost writers. Indian novelist, short-story writer and children's author, Anita Desai is indeed a name to reckon with in the field of literature. Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award and Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, Desai has authored as many as sixteen works of fiction, some of the best ones being 'Fasting, Feasting', 'The Village By The Sea', 'In Custody', and 'Clear Light of Day'. Her distinct style of writing, her original characters and her realistic subject-line is what made her writings so endearing. Over the years, Desai won many awards and recognition for her work and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice. Apart from writing, Anita has been actively involved in teaching as well. She continues to be an inspiration for many young aspiring writers today.

Early Life
Anita Desai, christened as Anita Mazumdar, was born on 14 June 1937 in Mussoorie, a quaint little hill-station close to Delhi. Born to a German mother, Toni Nime, and a Bengali businessman father, D.V. Mazumdar, Anita had an unorthodox upbringing, which in turn helped to nurture writing aspirations in her young mind. During her early years, she spent much time learning German, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and English that compounded her passion for literature. She received her early education from Queen Mary's Higher Secondary School in Delhi after which she went on to earn a bachelors degree in English Literature from Miranda House, University of Delhi in the year 1957. In 1958, she married Ashvin Desai.

Although she graduated from Delhi University in the year 1957, it was only in the early 1960s that Desai came out with her first publication 'Cry The Peacock' (1963). In the following years, she went on to publish a slew of books including 'Bye-bye Blackbird', 'Where Shall We Go This Summer?', 'Fire on the Mountain', 'Games at Twilight', 'Clear Light of Day', 'In Custody', and 'The Village by Sea'. Apart from these, Anita has written scores of short stories that have won her great accolades. Most of her plot line are either a representation or influenced by her personal experience of life. She never patronized a single theme or message, but instead believed in citing the truth as it is. In most of her works, she stressed on the lives of the Indian middle-class women as most of her female characters highlighted on their strained relationships. In her books, Anita has managed to deal with topics ranging from anti-Semitism to western quintessential ideologies of India and the death of Indian traditions and customs. Anita Desai never restricted limited herself to writing, but also spent time shaping young minds by teaching at Mount Holyoke College in United States and as a professor of humanities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Baruch and Smith College. Anita is also a fellow member of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Girton College and the Cambridge University. Anita continues to make her presence felt among American tabloid by publishing her write up for The New York Review of Books every fortnight.

Achievements and Awards
Anita Desai is one of those privileged writers whose work was chosen by Ismail Merchant, a well-established writer and director for screen adaptation. Her book "In Custody" was adapted by the production house and won the President of India Gold Medal for Best Picture. Over the years, Anita Desai has been honored for her work by many national and internationally prestigious rewards. The Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, Sahitya Akademi Award, Shortlisted, Booker Prize for Clear Light of Day, Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, Shortlisted, Booker Prize, Neil Gunn Prize, Shortlisted, Booker Prize for Fasting, Feasting, Alberto Moravia Prize 2000, Benson Medal of Royal Society of Literature in 2003 are some of the most well known awards that she has received.

Personal Life
Anita married at a very young age, soon after she graduated from Delhi University in the year 1957. She married Ashvin Desai, who was the director of a computer software firm and was the writer of the book 'Between Eternities: Ideas on Life and The Cosmos'. Ashvin and Anita had four children in the following years. Among them Kiran Desai happened to follow her mother's footsteps and apparently happens to be an equally famous, if not less, than her mother.

Time Line
1937: Anita Desai was born on 14 June in Mussoorie.
1957: She graduated from Miranda House with B.A in English literature.
1958: Anita Mazumdar entered holy matrimony with Ashvin Deasi.
1963: She released her first book 'Cry The Peacock'.
1978: Anita won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize.
1978: In the same year, she also received the Sahitya Akademi Award.
1980: Was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for 'Clear Light of Day'.
1984: She was again shortlisted for Booker Prize for 'Fasting, Feasting'.
2003: Received Benson Medal of Royal Society of Literature.
2004: Her last book 'The Zigzag Way' was published.