Anita Desai was born on this day to a German mother, and a Bengali businessman, in Mussoorie. She has been shortlisted for the booker prize thrice, the last being for “Fasting, Feasting” in 1999. In 1980, her name was nominated for the booker for her novel “Clear Light of Day”. “In custody” brought in her second booker nomination, in 1984. Desai has been awarded with the Sahitya Academy Award (National Academy of Letters Award) in 1978, for her novel “Fire on the Mopuntain”. The Village by the Sea and Where shall We go this Summer are her other popular works.
Kiran Desai, the Man Booker Prize winner , is her daughter.
On the occasion of her birthday, here is a brief look at one of her acclaimed novel, “Fasting, Feasting”.
World Plain, unmarriageable Uma has failed to outgrow her childhood home. Overprotected and starved for a life, she is surrounded and smothered by her overbearing parents, successful sister Aruna, who has outpaced her by pulling off a ‘good marriage’, and Arun, the family’s disappointment of a son. Eccentric aunts and cousins complete the scene of her claustrophobic existence, with its bitter-sweet treats of puri-alu and barfi s, samosas and fritters; and tragedies, big and small. Across the world in Massachusetts, where Arun has gone as a student, family life in an American suburb is bewilderingly different. The Pattons, who he lives with, appear strange and terrible to a young Indian, far from home. The women don’t appear to cook at all, though they stuff their shopping carts till they run over; the men barbecue huge hunks of meat; their daughter binges on innumerable candy bars. Increasingly, Mrs Patton is desperate to be a vegetarian, like Arun. But what Arun wants most is to be invisible. Moving from the heated hub of a traditional Indian household to the cooler centre of an American one, Fasting, Feasting is a powerful exploration of hunger and plenty, in what is one of Anita Desai’s most socially acute novels.