Vikram Seth

From ArticleWorld

Vikram Seth is so accomplished that only the word polymath comes close to describing him. Incidentally, he is also a polyglot. He happens to speak Mandarin, English (of course), German and his native tongue, Hindi fluently. He plays the cello, sings German lieder, (Schubert) and plays the flute very well. He studied Philosophy, political sciences and Economics. According to him, he spent eleven years at Stanford " not getting a PhD ".

He was born on the 20th of June,1952. He was sent to Doon school at the age of five, which is considired the Eton of India. (Academic excellence is not new to his family. His mother, Leila, studied law in London and finished frst in the Bar exam.) He attended high school at Tonbridge School in Kent, and went on to study Economics at Corpus Christi College in England. The rest is history.

Besides pusuing a doctoral degree in Economics, he got involved in writing. He was awarded the Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing (started in 1964 at Stanford).

His verse is traditionally structured, like the verses of Robert Frost and Phillip Larkin. According to Vikram Seth, this was quite inadvertent. He approached the poets at Stanford; the one closest to the door was Timothy Steele. Had the other person in the room been closer to the door, he (Vikram Seth) would have written in free verse.

His first book too came about quite accident. He undertook field studies in China for his thesis. He was fluent in Mandarin within six months and this lead to his first book, From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet .

Besides Writing

As if playing the flute, cello and singing are not enough, he is a polyglot. He speaks French, German, and Mandarin, to name a few. He has always displayed acute business sense. He is one of the rare authors who take it upon themselves to interview their agents. Litereary agents are not used to that. According to his agent Giles Gordon, he grilled them about their modus operandii, their interests and their strategy for promoting his work. In addition, strangely, he picked Giles because he was as intrested in his verse as in the prose. The fact that he read a poem at Gordon’s memorial in 2005 shows that he picked the right agent: they had formed life-long friendship. This aside, he did receive rididculously generous sums for books. 200,000 pounds for A Suitable Boy 500,000 pounds for An Equal Music 1.4 million ponds for Two Lives . This goes to show that he is indeed a good businessman.


Vikram Seth’s father worked as an executive in Bata, India. His mother, Leila Seth is a very accomplished woman. He has two siblings, one brother and one sister. His brother leads Buddhist mediational tours. His sister is a filmmaker.