Joshi recounts his experiences on three continents in this debut autobiography.
Born in Jamkhandi, India, in 1924 in his grandfather’s mud-walled and thatched-roof house, Joshi grew up in a world strikingly different from the one readers know. The author illustrates the peculiarities of life in that era, from the quaint means of transportation to the colorful characters to the tragically high rates of disease and mortality. His father, a primary schoolteacher, worked to ensure that Joshi would receive a quality education. Winning a “poor boys fund” scholarship, he was able to study science at Karnatak College. During this time, he participated in Gandhi’s “Quit India” independence movement. His postgraduate education included a Ph.D. in chemistry from Cambridge and a research fellowship at the University of Chicago. Applying his knowledge of organic chemistry to pharmaceuticals, the author was able to help improve the standard of living for Indians and others around the world. Joshi takes the reader through a lifetime of travel and research, chronicling the joys and pains that come with love, family, and reaching one’s 90s. Joshi has learned how much changes over the course of nine decades and how much remains the same. His prose is deliberative and highly detailed, displaying an impressive memory for the events of yesteryear. The most engrossing sections of the book are those related to his childhood, which occurred in an India that feels very remote from the modern America of Joshi’s present, as when he discusses his family’s Chitpavan Brahmin caste: “Some of my friends in school...used to tease me” that the Chitpavans “are calculating and miserly. The Chitpavans are said to come from the Middle East and landed on the west coast in a shipwreck.” As with many autobiographies, the work is episodic, with no strong narrative emerging. Some passages drag, and the relevance of each minor character or event isn’t always clear. Even so, the great scope of Joshi’s life should intrigue those interested in life in pre-independence India and in the experiences of the Indian diaspora in the West.
An expansive account of a culture-spanning life.