Anna Modayil Mani was born the seventh of eight siblings on August 23, 1918 in the formerly princely state of Tranvancore (now called Kerala) in the southern part of India. Her father was a prosperous civil engineer who owned large cardamom estates. The family was a typical upper class household where the boys were groomed for professional careers while the girls were readied for marriage. Anna, however, had plans of her own. By the time she was twelve she had read almost all the books in English and Malayalam (the regional language) in the local library. On her eighth birthday, she declined her family’s customary gift of a pair of diamond earrings, choosing instead the Encyclopedia Britannica. Such was her passion for knowledge.