Bharati Mukherjee (July 27, 1940 – January 28, 2017): ‘She begged for death’

Kolkata-born Mukherjee’s work includes award-winning novel like Jasmine.

Bharati Mukherjee (Courtesy of twitter)

Bharati Mukherjee, whose works examined the Indian American immigrant experience, died on Saturday at the New York University Hospital.

Mukherjee was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in the past few years. She suffered from cardiomyopathy, said her husband, author Clark Blaise in an official statement.

“She begged for death,” Blaise was quoted by The San Francisco Chronicle as saying. “She was really not in pain as such, but she realized there was no turning around.”

The paper descibed the author as  the “chronicler of Indian American life.”

The Kolkata-born Mukherjee was a Professor Emerita in the department of English at University of California, Berkeley, and her works chronicled the lives of Indians on the subcontinent and in the United States.

On on July 27, 1940, Mukherjee graduated from the University of Calcutta in 1959 and did master’s from the University of Baroda.  She traveled to the United States in the 1960s. She earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1963. Later she pursued a doctorate in comparative literature in 1969, Iowa.

Mukherjee married Blaise, a Canadian American author, in 1963. They had been together for 53 years.

RELATED: Bharati Mukherjee archive interview: ‘I lift the lid of my laptop and I become the persons I am writing about’ (February 2, 2017)

Bharati Mukherjee among 4 Indian Americans to be given ‘Great Immigrants’ award (June 9, 2016)

Mukherjee is best known for her 1989 novel, Jasmine, which is about a young Indian Punjabi woman in the United States, who, trying to adapt to the American way of life in order to be able to survive, changes identities several times.

Mukherjee is also known for her 1977 memoir, Day and Nights in Calcutta, which she co-wrote with her husband.

Her other books include The Tiger’s Daughter (1972), Wife (1975), Darkness (1985), Wanting America: Selected Stories (1995), Leave It to Me (1997), Desirable Daughters (2002), The Tree Bride (2004) and Miss New India (2011).

Mukherjee became a US citizen in 1989, the year she joined at UC Berkeley and after retiring from there in 2013, she and Blaise moved to New York, where they have had a home for 35 years.

Before starting her stint at the UC Berkeley, the celebrated writer had a teaching career with several institutions including McGill University, Skidmore College, Queens College and City University of New York.

In addition to her husband, Mukherjee is survived by their son Bernard. The couple’s other son, Bart, died last year at age 51.

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