Mulk Raj Anand: Biography, Career & Chronology

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Mulk Raj Anand: His Birth and Parentage

      Mulk Raj Anand, the novelist, short story writer, essayist, and art critic was born in 1905 in Peshawar, now in Pakistan. But then it was situated in the North West Frontier Province of India. He is the son of a traditional coppersmith who renounced his ancestor’s profession and matriculated. He worked as a regimental clerk in the British Army and rose to the position of the Head Clerk in Dogra Regiment of the British Army. His father’s regiment had frequent transfers. So they did not stay at a place for longer period. Thus Anand had to travel to different parts of the sub-continent appraising himself with the knowledge of multiple Indian cultures. He had observed life in several dimensions. He reflected over different facets of the tyranny the outcastes were compelled to undergo. He was amazingly discreet. All the childhood experiences inculcated an indelible impressions. He witnessed hackneyed rituals, exploitation of women in the name of divine service, superficial and hollow superiority of the Brahmin priest, and merciless acts of imperialism. Anand as a novelist and philanthropist emerged from practical experiences of his own life. His orthodox mother descended from a peasant family He inherited the knowledge of myths and epics from his mother. Since he was a child, he disregarded casteism and detested untouchability He condemned exploitation of the poor, and the outcastes.

His Career

      Anand’s life and career can easily be divided into three phases: the early phase is marked by the year he was born until his departure for England (1905-1925); the middle phase spans from 1925 to 1945 and; the third and last phase of his life, spans from 1946 to the; present day. He was admitted to British India School which nurtured the spirit of antipathy against all things Indian. He joined Khalsa; College Amritsar in 1921. The year was marked by Non-violence; Movement. He could not resist the temptation to participate and was imprisoned for a short term. He was a voracious reader. He took active interest in Dr. Md. Iqbal’s poetry and several prominent Indian authors including Tagore. He graduated from Punjab University in 1924. The same year he left for England. The second phase is the most significant. This phase is concerned with Anand’s sustained struggle to emerge as a novelist. He developed his literary canvas and mental horizon. He enriched his erudition in the company of renowned philosophers i.e. Kant and Hegel. He was awarded with Ph.d. in Philosophy. He read the masterpieces from Tolstoy Victor Hugo, Maxim Gorky, Turgenev and James Joyce. During this phase, he had prepared the draft of his first novel Untouchable. This novel brought him international acclaim and the eventual success led him to be rated as ‘the foremost Indian novelist’. He has written Apology for Heroism, Coolie, The Big Heart, The Village, Across the Blackwaters, The Sword and the Sickle, Two Leaves and a Bud, and Lament on the Death of a Master of Arts. He has authored a large number of short stories. The third phase of his life and career is disappointing. He wrote Morning Face, Seven Summers and The Private Life of an Indian Prince. Apart from a few novels this phase is notable for his great social concerns in India and editing of the art magazine, Marg. He is still the champion of the underdogs.

Anand’s Home

      Today, he lives in his own home in Khandala, seventy miles from Bombay. It is a beautiful hill station. He spends his time in reading and writing. He frequently attends seminars and conferences and opens new schools. He is undoubtedly a devoted writer and a social worker. He has hardly any spare time. Now a days, he is writing his autobiography in seven volumes.

      Dr. Fisher writes an account of his daily life that is exclusive and illuminating. It depicts virtual and life size personality and stature in herds.

      Dr. Fisher writes, “MuIk Raj walks briskly towards Kune village, where he has had the well and road cleaned, and where he is building a school, and advising on horticulture. Along the way he helps some of his impoverished friends who are in debt, and checks how far the fight against one of the Municipality’s decision has gone.

      Also, in passing there, there is inevitably a row, more often than not between a drunken Katori husband and his Christian wife. One wonders if sometimes these little feuds might not have been prearranged in order to detain the friendly helpful neighbour from Khandala a bit longer in order to obtain the dole for an extra bottle of liquor as the doctor invariably advises drink, though not too much, as solution to difficulties.”
(The Illustrated Weekly of India, August 12, 1973.)

His Daily Routine

      Normally his day begins at 5.30 with the alarm of his Swiss watch, purchased with the money he received for his article for UNESCO magazine. He walks every morning in any kind of weather. He is accompanied by his four dogs, Moti, Toti, Sunder and Alaxander. He loves his small zoo.

      He begins his meditation at 6.15 a.m. Dr. Anand practises his yoga and some aerobics. It is here he attains a blissfull state of mind and body He works among Marathi villagers for their welfare. From 7.15 to 8.00 Anand paints his perceptions on canvas experimenting with all kinds of techniques.

      At 8.00 a.m. he starts his writing. He performs his daily rituals in a studio-house which is incomplete yet. He continues to write till 10 a.m. After having shave takes his breakfast and goes shopping in loved Fiat. What he perceives and experiences during excursion, becomes an asset for his writings. By 10.30-11.00 a.m., he is back home again. Now he concentrates on his art magazine, Marg. This continues till 1.00 p.m.

      After having his shower he takes his lunch at 1.30 p.m. He welcomes guests and he is very hospitable. After a nap, he is again busy with his schedule. This time he concentrates more on articles than on fiction. He works steadily and one cigar is smoked away after an article is accomplished.

      While writing his article he is unperturbed by the construction schedule of the week-end.

      He walks for two miles in evening also. Mulk Raj walks briskly towards Kune Village, where he has had the well and road cleaned, and building a school.

      At 7.00 p.m. Mulk Raj Anand is very vivacious, gregarious and convivial. He enjoys the pegs of brandy with friends and guests. It continues till 8.30 or 8.45. He makes arrangements for musical programme once or twice a year, certainly at Deepawali. At 9.30 p.m. after a short walk followed by an hour of reading, he goes to sleep.

Chronology

      Such is Anand, the man, and such is his daily routine. Further light will be thrown both on the man and the writer by the table of chief events in his life, and of his more important works, given below:

1905
Born in Peshawar.

1921-24
Studied at Khalsa College, Amritsar; participated in the non-violent campaign and suffered brief imprisonment; wrote poetry in Urdu and had frequent meetings with Dr. Mohammad Iqbal.

1924
Graduated from the Punjab University; left for England for higher study and research in Philosophy; studied at University College, London, under Professor G. Dawes Hicks; met Irene, his daughter; upon her suggestion, wrote a long confession of 2,000 pages, which became a source book for novels like Seven Summers and Morning Face.

1928-30
Was awarded Ph.D. degree in Philosophy; wrote a number of articles for Creterion and other journals; toured Europe; worked on Indian art studies under the guidance of Ananda Coomaraswamy; wrote Persian Painting.

1932
Returned to India; studied ancient monuments; lived in. Sabarmati Asharam with Mahatma Gandhi and prepared the first draft of Untouchable.

1933
Sailed back to Europe; wrote The Hindu View of Art; The Golden Breath; Untouchable was rejected by nineteen British Publishers.

1935
Untouchable published: invited to represent India in the International Writers’ Conference against Fascism.

1936
Joined the International Bridge in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

1937
Two Leaves and a Bud published.

1938
Associated with the Student Movement, the Kisan Sabha and the Indian National Congress, on return to India; went back to London; married Kathleen Van Gelder, an actress.

1939-42
The Lal Singh Trilogy; associated with the British Labour Party

1944
The Barber's Trade Union and Other Stories, published.

1945
The Big Heart published, returned to India for good, tried to start a small cultural centre in Lahore.

1946
Came to Bombay; helped found the art magazine MARG; Apology for Heroism published.

1947
The Tractor and the Corn Goddess and Other Stories.

1948
Visited U.S.S.R.; secured divorce from Kathleen Van Gelder; returned to India and suffered a nervous breakdown.

1950
Attended the World Peace Council Session in Berlin.

1951
Wrote Seven Summers.

1952
Awarded the International Peace Prize of the World Peace Council for promoting understanding among the nations through his creative works; visited China as a member of Indian delegation.

1953
Private Life of an Indian Prince published; also Reflections on the Golden Bed and, Other Stories.

1956
Helped organize First Asian Writers’ Conference in New Delhi; nervous breakdown.

1958
Visited U.S.S.R. as joint leader of Indian delegation to Afro-Asian Writers’ Conference.

1959
The Power of Darkness and Other Stories.

1960
The Old Woman and the Cow; visited Japan for a special meeting of Afro-Asian Writers Bureau.

1961
Visited Australia on a lecture tour and attended Australian Peace Conference in Melbourne; organised there an exhibition of Contemporary Indian Painting.

1962
Visited Cairo as leader of Indian delegation to Afro-Asian Writers’ Conference; sponsored formation of the Bureau of Afro-Asian Writers in Colombo and the Indian Committee of Writers for Afro-Asian solidarity in New Delhi; joined Punjab University as Tagore Professor of Art and Literature.

1963
The Boad; lectured on bumanism at various Indian universities.

1964
Death of a Hero

1964
Visited Weimer as a delegate to the World Writers’ Meeting; visited Helsinki for World Peace Congress.

1966
Lajwanti and Other Stories; Honorary President, Lalit Kala Academi, New Delhi (1966-71).

1967
Visiting Professor, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla.

1968
Attended Commonwealth Writers’ Conference in Australia.

1969
Visited Cairo for a meeting of Afro-Asian Writers, inaugurated The Lotus Magazine.

1970
Morning Face; Organiser Secretary-General, Fourth Conference of Afro-Asian Writers, New Delhi.

1971
Visited Middle East on research tour.

1972
Visited Bangladesh; Sahitya Akademi Award for Morning Face.

1973-80
At present living in his Khandala home; busy schedule; writing his autobiography in seven volumes besides editing Marg and contributing to a host of Magazines and Journals.

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