|Profession(s)||Poet & Novelist|
|Physical Stats & More|
|Height The Guardian||in centimeters– 160 cm
in meters– 1.60 m
in feet & inches– 5’ 3”
|Famous Works||First Book of Poetry: Mappings (1980)
First Novel: The Golden Gate (1986)
Other Famous Works
• From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983)
• The Humble Administrator’s Garden (1985)
• A Suitable Boy (1993)
• An Equal Music (1999)
• Two Lives (2005)
|Awards, Honours, Achievements||• 1983: Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for ‘From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet’
• 1985: Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia) for ‘The Humble Administrator’s Garden’
• 1988: Sahitya Akademi Award for ‘The Golden Gate’
• 1994: Commonwealth Writers Prize for ‘A Suitable Boy’
• 1994: WH Smith Literary Award for ‘A Suitable Boy’
• 1999: Crossword Book Award for ‘An Equal Music’
• 2001: Order of the British Empire, Officer
• 2005: Pravasi Bharatiya Samman
• 2009: Padma Shri
|Date of Birth||20 June 1952 (Friday)|
|Age (as in 2019)||67 Years|
|Birthplace||Calcutta ( now, Kolkata)|
|School||• St. Michael’s High School, Patna
• St. Xavier’s High School, Patna
• The Doon School, Dehradun
• Welham Boys’ School, Dehradun
• Tonbridge School, England
|College/University||• Corpus Christi College, Oxford, England
• Stanford University, California
• Nanjing University, China
|Educational Qualification(s)||• PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, England in 1975
• Master’s in Economics from Stanford University, California in 1979
|Religion||He belongs to a Hindu Family. However, while talking about religion and country, Vikram says-
“I have said it before and am saying it again that any Indian who demeans another Indian on the basis of the food he eats and on the basis of the god he prays to or on the basis of the person he loves is not worthy to be an Indian leader.”
|Food Habit||Non-Vegetarian The Hindu|
|Hobbies||Reading, Writing, Listening to Music, Swimming, Singing|
|Controversies||• In 2006, Vikram became a key figure of the campaign against Section 377 (unnatural sex) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which was recriminalised by the Supreme Court of India. He even slammed the Section 377 at a function organized at the Rashtrapati Bhawan by a TV Channel. Times of India
• In 2015, Vikram was trolled for accepting the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman from Jagdish Tytler in 2005. The same Jagdish Tytler who is often accused of his alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. When the news of Jagdish’s involvement in the riots broke, Barkha Dutt asked whether Vikram would return his award, which he had received from his hands. Vikram replied- The Quint
|Relationships & More|
|Sexual Orientation||Bisexual Outlook India|
|Marital Status||In an interview given to a magazine, Vikram confessed that he had been in a monogamous relationship once. Outlook India|
• Philippe Honoré (French; Violinist)
|Parents||Father– Prem Nath Seth (Executive of Bata Shoes)
Mother– Leila Seth (Justice; died on 5 May 2017)
|Siblings||Brother– Shantum Seth (Buddhist Teacher)
Sister– Aradhana Seth (Filmmaker & Scenographer)
|Food||Chapli Kabab, Shamli Kabab, Awadhi Biryani, Konkani Biryani, Hyderabadi Biryani|
|Poets(s)||Timothy Steele, Donald Davie|
|Novelist(s)||Jane Austen, George Eliot, R. K. Narayan|
|Book||“Eugene Onegin” by Alexander Pushkin|
|Musician(s)||Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Schubert|
|Assets/Properties||• He keeps on shifting his base from England to Delhi and vice versa.
• Bemerton Rectory in Salisbury, England (former house of the poet George Herbert) The Guardian
|Royalty (approx.)||He was paid Rs. 2.3 crores for his bestselling novel “A Suitable Boy” and Rs. 13 crores for his novel “Two Lives” The Telegraph|
Some Lesser Known Facts About Vikram Seth
- His father, Prem Nath Seth was an executive at the Bata Shoes and was nicknamed as ‘Mr Shoes’ in Delhi. His mother, Leila Seth was the first female judge of the Delhi High Court, and also the first woman Chief Justice of a state High Court in India; when she became the 8th Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court (5 August 1991 – 20 October 1992).
- At the age of six, Vikram was sent to the boarding school, which stemmed his introverted character. It affected his areas of interest too, as he was introvert and always read books, instead of involving himself in group activities like sports. Vikram recollects,
Incapable of looking people in the eye. The school was too far to visit, it took two days to get there from home, and I only saw my family for four months a year. When I was at home my father, was distant, a figure who came home tired and preoccupied. I had a terrible feeling of loneliness and isolation during my six years here. Sometimes at lights out, I wished I would never wake up. I was teased and bullied by my classmates and my seniors because of my interest in studies and reading, because of my lack of interest in games, because of my unwillingness to join gangs and groups.”
- When he was studying in the Doon School, he used to edit the journal of the school “The Doon School Weekly.” From the Doon School, he won a scholarship to Tonbridge School, England.
- To attend Tonbridge, he went to live with his great uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, a dentist by profession in England.
- At Tonbridge, he again won a scholarship to study at Oxford University. While studying at Oxford, he indulged himself in writing poetry. He condemns the poem that he wrote at that time, as he considers them as ‘incredibly unskillful.’ However, he continued to write poems and but kept the poems to himself.
- He is an avid reader of poetry. While studying at Stanford, Vikram ran into a translated work of the Chinese poet, Wang Wei. Influenced by Wei’s work, he decided to learn Mandarin, so that he could read the original works of the poet. Within a year, Vikram excelled in Mandarin to an extent that he was writing poems in the language. Simultaneously, he also started to write poems in English seriously.
- Apart from Mandarin, he is fluent in German, French, Urdu, Bengali, and Welsh.
- Knowing that he needed guidance, he approached the teachers from the English Department of Stanford University. There, Vikram discovered a mentor in the American poet, Timothy Steele, who was serving as the Jones Lecturer in poetry at Stanford at that time. Timothy also used to give him informal biweekly tutorials, and he also inculcated the urge of creativity in Vikram. Timothy recollects,
The first thing that impresses you about Vikram is his immense and lively intelligence. It was always clear he was going to do something remarkable, but it wasn’t clear, when I first knew him, what direction his talent would take. Three or four muses were tugging jealously at him.”
- Vikram took a year leave from his Economics studies for Wallace Stegner Fellowship (1977-78) in creative writing.
- One of the contemporaries of Vikram was Dana Gioia, an American poet and the writer of ‘Can Poetry Matter?.’ Together with Dana and Steele, Vikram’s natural inclination to write poetry began to blossom, and his first collection of poem ‘Mappings’ came out in 1980; after he had rejoined the Economics Department at Stanford.
- ‘Mappings’ uses the sound pattern of rhyme and meter, which was quite unfashionable at that time. This resulted in publishers refusing to publish his book. All of it, led Vikram to become a publisher himself, and he started to force his family and friends to sell the copies of his books. The book was later published by Writers Workshop in Calcutta.
- Vikram had already left for China’s Nanjing University, for his doctoral research in the demography of Chinese villages, before his book ‘Mappings’ was published in 1980. In China, rather than focusing on research, Vikram was busy in reading poetry. This ultimately led Vikram to translate the works of the Chinese poets – Wang Wei, Du Fu, and Li Bai in his book “Three Chinese Poets,” published in 1992.
- At the end of his stay in China, a sight-seeing trip to China’s north-west province was organised. During the trip, Vikram managed to charm a policeman by singing “Awara Hoon,” which was a song from the Bollywood film “Awara” (1951), a popular movie in China at that time. The next day, his rendition of the song was a hot topic in the police station, and he was given a rare permit to travel to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital in China’s autonomous land. When he reached Tibet, he decided to hitchhike his way back to India through Tibet. He wrote the account of this journey in his book ‘From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet’ (1983), which was published by London publishers – Chatto and Windus.
- Back at Stanford, in midst of analyzing his research, he was struck on the translation of Alexander Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin” by Charles Johnston. His heavy obsession with the book led him to write his first novel “The Golden Gate” (1986), which was published by Random House.
- Soon, Vikram decided to abandon his PhD in Economics, which he was pursuing from Stanford University. He returned to India in 1987 and began working on his novel “A Suitable Boy” (1993).
- His children’s book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992) consists of ten stories, which are made into poetry.
- A sequel of “A Suitable Boy” – “A Suitable Girl” by him was announced in 2009 and is yet to be published. As he thought that he didn’t know much about India.
- His second non-fiction work ‘Two Lives’ (2005), is a memoir of the marriage of his great-uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, and his German Jewish great-aunt, Hennerle Gerda Caro.
- He was commissioned by the English National Opera to write a libretto based on the Greek legend ‘Arion and the Dolphin.’ The opera was performed for the first time in June 1994.
- Since his childhood, he loved music and learned to play the piano and cello. He also learned to sing Khayal under the mentorship of late Pandit Amarnath for 10 years. However, his love for western classical music began to sprout, when one of his friends at Oxford took him to hear Bach. It was his passion for music that led him to write ‘An Equal Music’ (1999).
- After “The Golden Gate” (1986) was published, Vikram decided to have a British agent. He drew a shortlist of a few agencies and interviewed them one by one. He eventually chose Giles Gordon, a Scottish literary agent and writer. Recalling the interview, Gordon said-
Vikram sat at one end of a long table and began to grill us. It was quite incredible. He wanted to know our literary tastes, our views on poetry, our views on plays, which novelists we liked.”
- Vikram also worked as an editor at the Stanford University Press from 1985 to 1986.
- When Vikram was offered a job at the World Bank, his parents suggested him to work for five years at the bank so that he could get a pension and continue to write poetry and novels. Vikram told them that his creativity would be finished and instead, asked them to support him until his next book would be released.
- Vikram has not only showed his talent poetry but also in calligraphy. He has learned calligraphy in Chinese and Arabic and can write in a number of paints and scripts. He has also made three paintings with his association with Absolut Vodka, for whom, he had done three painting featuring their bottle.
- He belongs to a Hindu Family. However, when it comes to his religious and political ideas, Vikram says,
I have said it before and am saying it again that any Indian who demeans another Indian on the basis of the food he eats and on the basis of the god he prays to or on the basis of the person he loves is not worthy to be an Indian leader.”