Anita Desai is popularly known novelist, short story writer, screenwriter as well as a children's writer. She was born on 24th June 1937 at Mussoorie. She had a flair for writing from her early childhood. Being a daughter of a German mother and Bengali father she stated her life speaking German at home and Hindi with friends. At her primary school level she learnt English and wrote her first short story at the age of nine. She studied in Queen Mary's higher secondary school in New Delhi and afterwards at Miranda House from where she earned a bachelor's degree with English as her subject. Although she never stopped writing short stories her first novel 'Cry, the peacock' was released in the year 1963. This followed with chain of novels resulting into various awards including National Academy of Letters Award, Sahitya Akademi Awards and many more.
She has also received Padma Shri in 1990. Presently she is the member of both the Advisory Board for English in New Delhi and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is also working as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Desai has also taught writing at several universities, including Girton College at Cambridge University, Smith College, and Mt. Holyoke College. In 1993 she joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a creative writing instructor.
Anita Desai's wonderful novel tells the story of a family living in the small fishing village of Thul, 14 kilometres from Mumbai. It is more precisely the story of two young people, Hari, a boy of 14, and Lila, a girl of 13. They do some difficult work even at this age. Lila has to look after their mother who is very ill with fever and requires constant care. She is also in charge of all the household tasks and has to look after their two younger sisters, Bela and Kamal. Hari on the other hand has to work in the fields, selling whatever he can at the market to feed the family. His father earns nothing and he has lost everything on drinking. Next to their hut there is a large country house called Mon Repos which is owned by the de Silvas from Bombay and whenever they come on holiday to Thul, Lila and Hari can earn some extra money by helping with the household or doing work in the garden. But there is a rumour in the village saying that a large fertilizer factory will replace the rice fields and the coconut groves very soon. The Government chose the location of Thul for its closeness to the port of Rewas. So new highways and railway lines are to be build and the villagers are worried about their future. Their thoughts and feelings are depicted beautifully. Many questions arise in the village, as for instance are they skilled enough to get a job at the factory? What will become of their traditional way of life? Will chemicals pollute the air and the sea? When a delegation is sent to Bombay to express their worries to the Minister Sahib, Hari decides to join the party. Before leaving, he decides that Bombay may offer him a better life opportunity than his frightened sisters, his sad house, his ill mother and his drunken father. And it is indeed in Bombay where this delicate boy, hari, will learn to fight and become a man. A clear transition is illustrated lucidly, which attracts the readers a lot. Anita Desai describes the village life beautifully in 'A Village by the Sea'. It gives the readers an insight into Indian culture and tradition as reflected by the people of Thul. Tradition, cultural values and rituals are found almost everywhere in the country, be it the busy cities or the quiet villages. 'A Village By the sea' attempts to capture the very essence of culture and tradition in a village. Anita Desai's use of language catches every corners of the village life through the eyes of the people of Thul.