Vikram Chandra (SHAHN-drah) was born in New Delhi, India, on July 23, 1961. His father, Navin Chandra, was a company president. Vikram’s mother, Kamna Kavshik Chandra, a successful screenwriter, playwright, and author, encouraged her children to be creative; one of Vikram’s two younger sisters eventually became a filmmaker, the other, a journalist and film critic.
After three years at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay, India, Vikram Chandra moved to Claremont, California, to attend Pomona College, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, won the Dole, Kinney, and King prizes in creative writing, and in 1984 was awarded a B.A., magna cum laude. As an undergraduate, Chandra had completed his first novel, but it was never published. After graduating from Pomona College, Chandra went to The Johns Hopkins University, where he received an M.A. in 1987. He next enrolled in film school at Columbia University and also started a computer programming and consulting firm called Letters and Light.
While he was browsing through the Indian section of the Columbia University library, Chandra chanced upon the autobiography of Colonel James “Sikander” Skinner, originally written in Urdu. Within a few months, Chandra had to admit to himself that he was more interested in the issues raised by Skinner’s story than in the film he was making. He dropped out of film school, planning to write a novel that would combine Hindu mythology and such postcolonial issues as alienation and the conflict of cultures with what he thought of as the mythology of...
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