Anand, Mulk Raj (1905–2004) By Pillai, Sharon
Mulk Raj Anand, together with Raja Rao and R. K. Narayan, made up a distinguished trio in the vanguard of twentieth-century Indian writing in English. His roles as essayist, short story writer, playwright, art critic, food critic, editor, activist, and social commentator over a near century-long life attest to his versatile genius and varied interests. Today, however, Anand is most famous for his talent as a novelist whose commitment to artistic verisimilitude and social justice compellingly redrew the ambit of literary representation in India to include marginalized subjectivities and subaltern realities.
Mulk Raj Anand was born to a provincial Kshatriya Punjabi family in Peshawar. Anand’s formative years were spent in the cantonments of Nowshera and Mian Mir because his father, Lal Chand, was a subordinate functionary in the colonial army. During his years at Khalsa College in Amritsar, Anand became acquainted with the poet Mohammad Iqbal. He was also briefly involved in anti-colonial activities. Faced with familial strife and emotional tangles, Anand — with Iqbal’s encouragement — set sail to do his Ph.D. in England in 1925. He won a scholarship to University College, London, where he worked on a dissertation on British philosophy, and was awarded a doctorate in 1929.