Vikram Seth was born on 20 June 1952. A world renowned Indian novelist and poet, He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards including Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award. Seth’s collections of poetry such as Mappings and Beastly Tales are notable contributions to the Indian English language poetry canon.
Vikram Seth has published six books of poetry and three novels.
The Golden Gate, In 1986 (his first novel).
A Suitable Boy, the 1,349-page mega novel propelled Seth into the public limelight. It won him the coveted W.H.Smith prize in 1993.
An Equal Music, published in 1999, deals with the troubled love life of a violinist. He creates a living and breathing world that keeps the readers focused and engaged.
The award of the commander of the order 3 of the British Empire CBE was given to Seth on February 2001.
‘Two Lives’ published in 2005 is a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt.
A Suitable Girl– his upcoming novel is set to release in 2016.
Vikram Seth has written some very fine poems as well.
His poetry includes
From Heaven Lake (1983),
The Humble Administrator’s Garden (1985),
All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990)
Three Chinese Poets (1992).
His children’s book, Beastly Tales from Here and There ‘(1992) consists of ten stories about animals. He has also authored a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sin kiang and Tibet (1983). It is an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal. Vikram Seth was also commissioned by the English National Opera to write a libretto based on the Greek legend of Arion and the Dolphin. The opera was performed for the first time in June 1994.
A Suitable Boy is a novel by Vikram Seth, published in 1993. At 1349 pages (1488 pages softcover) and 591,552 words, the book is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language. A sequel, to be called A Suitable Girl, is due for publication in 2016.
A Suitable Boy is set in a newly post-independence, post-partition India. The novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, and centres on Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s efforts to arrange the marriage of her younger daughter, Lata, to a “suitable boy”. Lata is a 19-year-old university student who refuses to be influenced by her dominating mother or opinionated brother, Arun. Her story revolves around the choice she is forced to make between her suitors Kabir, Haresh, and Amit.
It begins in the fictional town of Brahmpur, located on the Ganges between Banares and Patna. Brahmpur, along with Calcutta, Delhi, Kanpur and other Indian cities, forms a colourful backdrop for the emerging stories.
The 1349-page novel alternatively offers satirical and earnest examinations of national political issues in the period leading up to the first post-Independence national election of 1952, including Hindu-Muslim strife, the status of lower caste peoples such as the jatav, land reforms and the eclipse of the feudal princes and landlords, academic affairs, abolition of the Zamindari system, family relations and a range of further issues of importance to the characters.
The novel is divided into 19 parts with, generally, each part focusing on a different subplot. Each part is described in rhyming couplet form on the contents page.
Characters in A Suitable Boy
The four main families in the novel are:
- Rupa Mehra, a mother searching for a suitable boy for her youngest daughter.
- Arun, Mrs. Mehra’s oldest son, married to Meenakshi Chatterji
- Savita, married to Pran Kapoor
- Lata, whose arranged marriage forms the basis of the main plot.
- TheKapoors, Mr. Mahesh Kapoor, Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor and their three children Veena, Pran (married to Savita Mehra) and Maan.
- TheKhans, The Nawab Sahib of Baitar and his three children Zainab, Imtiaz and Firoz.
- TheChatterjis, Mr. Justice Chatterji and Mrs. Chatterji and their children Amit, Meenakshi (married to Arun Mehra), Dipankar, Kakoli and Tapan
- Kabir Durrani, a love interest of Lata, and a central hub of one of the main themes of the novel. His father is a respected, charmingly bumbling, maths teacher at the university that both Kabir and Lata attend. Kabir is a highly successful player on the university cricket team. Lata and Kabir have a brief, intense courtship; the ramifications of which echo through the rest of the novel.
- Haresh Khanna, an enterprising and determined shoe-businessman, who is also a love interest of the heroine.
- Amit Chatterji, Justice Chatterji’s eldest son and internationally acclaimed poet and author. Again, a prominent love interest of Lata.
Four family trees are provided in the beginning of the novel to help readers keep track of the complicated interwoven family networks.
Some other prominent characters, not mentioned above, include:
- Malati, best friend of Lata
- Aparna, daughter of Meenakshi and Arun
- Kedarnath Tandon, married to Veena (née Kapoor)
- Mrs Tandon
- Bhashkar Tandon, son of Veena and Kedarnath
- Hashim Durrani, Kabir’s brother
- Dr Durrani, mathematician
- Saeeda Bai, courtesan and musician
- Tasneem, sister of Saeeda Bai
- Bibbo, servant at Saeeda Bai’s
- Rasheed, student at Brahmpur University, Tasneem’s Arabic teacher
- Ishaq, sarangi player
- S S Sharma, Chief Minister
- Agarwal, home minister
- Priya, his daughter
- Simran, a Sikh woman and former love interest of Haresh Khanna
- Kalpana Gaur, friend of the Mehra family
- Billy Irani, friend of Arun Mehra, later has an affair with Meenakshi
- Shireen, his fiancee
- Bishwanath Bhaduri
- Abdus Salam
- Raja of Marh
- Rajkumar of Marh, his son
- Dr Bilgrami
- Professor Mishra, an English professor
- Dr Ila Chattopadhay, an English professor
- Hans, an Austrian diplomat
- Begum Abida Khan, politician
- The Guppi, inhabitant of Salimpur
- Netaji, Rasheed’s uncle
- Makhijani, indulgent poet
- Sandeep Lahiri
- Waris, servant at the Baitar Fort and competes with Mahesh Kapoor in the General Election
- Jagat Ram
- The Munshi, in charge of the Baitar Fort
- Uma Kapoor, daughter of Savita and Pran
- Professor Nowrojee, who runs the university literary club attended by Kabir and Lata.
- Sunil Patwardhan, mathematician at Brahmpur University
- Parvati, Mrs Rupa Mehra’s stepmother