Robert D. Sturr
Chandra was born in Nanjangud in the southern Indian State of Karnatak (known as Mysore under the British). His father, a prosperous lawyer, provided his son with a Western-oriented education. After earning a bachelor's degree in English in 1953 and a law degree in 1958 (both from the University of Mysore), Chandra briefly pursued the legal career that was expected of him. Marriage plans were suggested, but he balked. He revealed in a later interview that he was “inspired by reading and movies, ” and while his father tried to find him a suitable Indian wife, he “was secretly planning to leave the country to pursue a literary life” (Vasudeva and Bahri 11).
Chandra came to the United States and Canada in the early 1960s to pursue advanced degrees in secondary education and labor law, but his studies were ruses to conceal his desire to become a writer. Signaling a complete break with his family's plans, Chandra married Jane Ronnerman (a teacher) in 1966, the same year he entered the prestigious writing program at the University of Iowa. He completed an M.F.A. in 1968, the same year his first book, Bharata Natyam Dancer and Other Poems, was published. Three more volumes of poetry followed shortly thereafter: Will This Forest (1968), Reasons for Staying (1970), and April in Nanjangud (1971). Establishing a lifelong pattern of involvement in an international range of literary communities, these first four books were published, respectively, in India, the United States, Canada, and England.
Chandra also began a long and distinguished teaching career. He noted in a 1999 Contemporary Authors profile that “'I was probably the only Indian writer teaching creative writing on a Western campus'” (63). He taught at Iowa, Iowa Wesleyan College, Washington State University, and the Univer-