Bharati Mukherjee was born on July 27, 1940, in Calcutta to Sudhir Lal and Bina Mukherjee. Her childhood was spent in a traditional Brahmin extended family where members of several generations lived together. Her father's business took the family abroad in 1948, giving his children an occasion to be schooled in England and then in Switzerland. On their return to India, Bharati Mukherjee attended the Loretto Convent School in Calcutta where she received a good grounding in English and Western thought. She earned a B.A. in English Honors from Calcutta University in 1959 and an M.A. in English and ancient Indian culture from Baroda University in 1961.
Mukherjee's upbringing had a tremendous influence on her development as a writer. In fact, the lack of privacy in her household during her early childhood turned her into an avid reader, for the books provided an escape for a shy girl. Long before she was ten, she knew she was going to be a writer. Traditional families like the Mukherjees would not have dreamed of sending girls to college, let alone sending them across the seas to a foreign land. However, breaking with tradition, her parents sent their three daughters to the United States for further education. For once, being a female worked to her advantage when she decided to be a writer. A son of the family would have been expected to choose a useful occupation, but since she was not being groomed for a career, she was allowed to enroll in the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa to get an M.F.A. in creative writing. She was expected to return, after getting her degree, to get married. As it turned out, after she received her M.F.A degree, she stayed on to earn a Ph.D. in 1969.
It was in Iowa that Mukherjee met and married Clark Blaise, a fellow Ca-