Mulk Raj Anand was one of the top Indian writers who wrote in English. Along with his contemporaries like R. K. Narayan, Raja Rao, Khushwant Singh; he was a widely read writer who garnered international fame. Anand wrote many short stories and novels where he presented an insight into the lives of the oppressed and the poorer castes of India and painted a poignant picture of their exploitation, misfortunes and impoverishment. He also incorporated Punjabi and Hindustani phrases in his English works. He was honoured with the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Mulk Raj Anand was born in Peshawar, now in Pakistan; on 12 December 1905. He graduated from the Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1924. He moved to England, where he attended University College London and later, Cambridge University. He obtained his PhD in Philosophy in 1929. He became a member of the Bloomsbury Group in Cambridge. Later he also lectured at the League of Nations’ School in Geneva.
Anand was moved by the rigidity and ruthlessness of the caste system. He wrote an article when one of his aunts had to commit suicide after being hounded by the society for sharing a meal with a Muslim woman. His first major novel was “Untouchable”, published in 1935. It was about the pathetic life of a lower caste Indian. The book had a foreword by E. M. Forster, whom he had met in England.
During the 1930’s and 40’s, Anand spent almost half of his time in London. He made a living as a journalist and writer. He was drawn to the Indian independence movement and began writing for the cause of Indian independence. He supported freedom movement in other countries too. During the Spanish Civil War, he travelled to Spain. During World War II, in London, he worked as a scriptwriter for BBC.
During this time he endeared himself to George Orwell in London, who wrote a review for his 1942 novel The Sword and the Sickle. He also struck friendship with Picasso and had Picasso paintings in his collection.
In 1946, Anand returned to India and continued as a writer. Besides novels, autobiographies, and short stories; he also wrote poetry and essays on a wide range of subjects. Some of his well-known novels were The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1939), and Coolie (1936). The Private Life of an Indian Prince (1953) was the most important of his novel which were written in India.
Marg was a literary magazine that he founded. He also taught in various universities. During the 1970s, he worked with the International Progress Organization (IPO) which worked for the issues relating to cultural self-comprehension of nations. He also delivered lectures on eminent Indians and their thoughts, which included Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore.
In 1950, Anand began a project to write a seven-part autobiography, and the first part, Seven Summers was published in 1951. One of the parts, Morning Face, published in 1968 was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1971.
In 1939, while he was in London, Anand married an English actress, Kathleen Gelder. The couple had a daughter, Sushila; and later divorced in 1948. Later, when he returned to India; Anand married Shirin Vajifdar in 1950, who was a classical dancer.
Mulk Raj Anand passed away in Pune on 28 September 2004 at the age of 98.
Inspirational Quotes by Mulk Raj Anand
“Our tragic age demands poetry of courage and not whimpers about the inevitable end of all maya.”
“The trouble with liberal democracy is that it takes a long time to mature.”
“No apology is necessary for being truthful to the echoes of one’s mother tongue.”
“Please look out for the few thorns that might have got mixed up with the roses.”
From, The Private Life of an Indian Prince
“Charat Singh was feeling kind, though he did not relax the grin which symbolized six thousand years of racial and class superiority.”
Mulk Raj Anand’s literary contributions shall be cherished as great works of literature, as well as for the social statements they make. He was influenced by the philosophy of Communism, and used his literary works to attack the social disparities and exploitation in the Indian society.