Govindas Vishnoodas Desani (1909–2000) was born to Indian parents in Nairobi, Kenya, and raised in Sind, India (located in present-day Pakistan). An intelligent but willful child, Desani ran away from home several times and was expelled from school when he was thirteen for “being unteachable.” At the age of seventeen, he decided to educate himself, traveling alone to England and spending a year as a reader at the British Library. Still in his teens, Desani returned to India where he was a foreign correspondent for several London newspapers. In the late 1930s and during World War II, he worked for the BBC and traveled throughout England as a lecturer. All About H. Hatterr was published in England in 1948 and was one of the best-selling books of the year. Settling in India in 1952, Desani began a life of near seclusion which was to last for more than a decade. During this period, he spent time in Buddhist monestaries and studied yoga and Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. Soon after, he began lecturing on Eastern thought and contributing stories and an unsigned opinion column, “Very High and Very Low,” to The Times of India’s Illustrated Weekly. He moved to the United States in 1970 to teach at Boston University and subsequently the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a professor of religion and philosophy.
Heralded by T. S. Eliot and an inspiration to Salman Rushdie, All About H. Hatterr is one of the great eccentric books of all time. Newsweek called this comedic search for a man’s enlightenment “a mischievous mulligatawny that reads like a collaboration between Mrs. Malaprop and Groucho Marx”.