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Bharati Mukherjee - A Writer of Immigrant Lives


Bharati Mukherjee, an Indian-American writer is fondly remembered as 'a voice from home', for expressing and writing compelling stories that reflected the lives of immigrants and their transformation as immigrants in the USA. Although she called herself as an American writer, she had the opportunity of attending schools in England, Switzerland, and India. Later, she earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1963 and her Ph.D. in 1969 from the department of Comparative Literature. After living in Canada for several years, she moved to the USA for good. Bharati led a remarkable life, published more than 10 books with some award winning ones, and died at the age of 76, on January 28, 2017. But of course, her journey wasn't plain sailing as it was glazed with several tribulations and battles that she overcame to be called as a 'Writer of Immigrant Life', today.

Born into a wealthy family from Calcutta, Bharati completed her B.A. from the University of Calcutta, after which she studied M.A. from the University of Baroda. As a young girl, she was well-protected by her father and bodyguards, her father was her decision maker and he chose a pretty conventional life for her. When she moved to the USA in 1963, she fell in love with Clark Blaise, a fellow student in the writers' workshop at the University of Iowa. Albeit this wasn't the life her parents envisioned for her, she went ahead and married Clarke. Breaking free from her privileged, predictable, comfortable but maybe mundane life was a choice she had to make at a very early stage of her life, and her protagonists usually shared these attributes and possessed commendable strength.

She is the first among Asian immigrants to have made a stark distinction between immigrant writing and expatriate writing; she never identified herself as an Indian writer, although she endearingly called it her home or sense of belonging, because it was in the USA that she discovered her voice and found the courage and medium to express it. In many ways, Bharati wrote stories on immigrants who were remaking the society, and about people whose lives were traced with beginning a life afresh in a distant life.

Interestingly enough, Bharati never stopped exploring her other areas of interest. When she became a U.S. citizen in 1989, she accepted a teaching position at the University of California at Berkeley. She kept teaching, influencing, and inspiring youngsters globally to step out of their comfort zones.

 Her contributions to the USA were always duly recognized and in 2016, she was bestowed with a prestigious Carnegie Corporation's 'Great Immigrants: The Pride of America' honour. As one of the 42 selected eminent professionals, she shared this honour with Sundar Pichai, Vikram Malhotra among many other noteworthy individuals.

 From a wide range of personal immigration stories to a life that's an epitome of fearlessness and aspirations, Bharati wrote and rewrote her life on her own terms by making right decisions. Her life story, alone, is a great perspective that many youngsters must adapt for carving achievements and paths of their own.