Sunday, June 20, 2010

Keki N. Daruwalla: A Poet That Dwells Apart

While reading the poetry of Keki N.Daruwalla one is bound to have the feeling that he is being transported to a bizarre world No other Indo-English poet delves so deep into the mysterious inner world of the human psyche as does Daruwalla . Daruwalla writes with a vision , and the vision follows him like a shadow . Whlle reading his poetry, the reader will have occasion to remember several poets . His attitude towards nature will remind one of Tennyson, . His morbid pre-occupation with death will remind one of Emily Dickinson . His supernaturalism will remind the reader of Coleridge . His poetry as a heap of broken images will remind us of the poetic technique of T.S.Eliot.
We can see Daruwalla's worldview in his meditative poem Ruminations . The poet has glimpses of the true nature of life . He can see violence and hatred in the air . They are so omnipresent! Man cannot wash away these evils from his mind , try hard as he will! They stick deep . As violence and hatred reign all around . the natural corollary is death- wish . The poet says

Death I am looking
for that bald bone-head of yours!

Flesh is man's ultimate destiny . Alas! it is a prey to corruption. Neither rose-water nor insense-sticks nor flowers can drown the smell of death .

The drift as it comes to us now
is aroma/stench/nausea
jostling each other

Violence can disfigure the human body . The corpse of a woman lying on the verandah of the morgue , the victim of her husband's jealousy , has a grisly look , her nose being sliced off . Man is submissive to his ultimate fate .

bury him
and he is steadfast as the earth
Burn him and he will ride the flames
Throw him to the birds and he will
surrender flesh like an ascetic.

Can man ever have a cleansed feeling such as one gets while walking to  the temple after a river-bath ? No, says the poet . Nature has a cleansed look after rain .

the hedge smiles
the leaf loses its coat of dust
the scum spills from the pool

Alas for man .!He can never experience the cleansed feeling ! Sin sticks so deep that sophisticated man is incapable of redemption .

I have misplaced it somewhere
in the caverns of my past!

Daruwalla elaborates the theme of sin in his poem The Death of a Bird . The poem has the same motif as Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment Man has to pay dearly for perpetrating sins on inoffensive animals and birds . The victim of the poet's cruelty is a king monal that was engaged in love-making with his mate . The sinner and his female companion cannot get away with the sin . "Why did our footsteps drag ?""

Depressed a bit we took the road
walking like ciphers disinterred
from some forgotten code

The consciousness of sin begets weird feelngs and sensations . The terror that the sinner experiences is more-than-life-size. The glazed eyes and throbbing heart of the dying monal fill the poet with terror and foreboding . Every incident after the perpetration of the sin however trivial has a nightmare horror . The pony's cry as it fell into a gorge drowns even the roar of the river . The sinners are even incapable of enjoying love-making!

Death and nature's cruelty , the two pet themes of Daruwalla, form the subject of The Ghaghra in Spate. The changing moods of the treacherous river are described using unconventional imagery . In the afternoon the river is a grey smudge on the canvas .At night she is overstewed coffee

At night under a red moon in menses
she is a red weal
across the spine of the land

The river's relentless fury and man's unequal fight for survival are brought out in these lines :

If only voices could light lamps
If only limbs could turn to rafted bamboos

The people take their tragedy with stoic indifference .

They don't rave or curse
for they know the river's slang, her argot

What baffles the poet more is man's indifference to the tragedy that befell other human beings . It is time for celebration for some! Women come in chauffeur- driven cars to collect driftwood to decorate their drawing-rooms . Nature's orgy of destruction is not yet over . Fishes in the fields are strangled to death through an unholy alliance between the sun and mud !

This is the frightful picture of the Ghaghra painted by Daruwalla . The world depicted by Daruwalla is not a pleasing one . It is a sombre world where man is at the mercy of relentless elements . His poetry provides a unique experience for readers of Indian poetry in English . Daruwalla is indeed a star that dwells apart in the firmament of Indo-Anglian poetry.

Thank you for your visit!


  1. Where could I find a poem titled "The Ghost" by Keki Daruwalla?

  2. Hi! I have an urgent query, am doing my Masters on Das and need the line reference to 'If love is not to be had, I want to be dead'. I know it is from 'The Suicide' in 'The Descendants', but what line(s) is that in the poem? Please e-mail me at if you know!

  3. Helo sir,

    "I can smell violence in the air like the lash of coming rainmass hatreds drifting grey across the moon It hovers brooding, posed like a cobra as Igo prodding rat-holes and sounding caverns looking for a fang that darts a hood that sways and eyes that squirt a reptile hate."

    Please write me the meaning of this poem throughout the lines and also cite some images that you strike from this poem.

    Thanks in adv