Share This Page
Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla as a Poet
by Bijay Kant Dubey
“God, save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?” − With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.
− S.T.Coleridge in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner
(Edited By Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Shorter Fourth Edition, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London, 1997, p.433)
Under an overhang of crags
the monals mated, clawed and screamed;
the female brown and nondescript
the male was king, a fire-dream!
My barrel spoke one word of lead:
the bird came down, the king was dead,
− Keki N. Daruwalla in Death of A Bird
(Crossing of Rivers and The Keeper of the Dead, Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi, 1991, p.47)
Keki N.Daruwalla, who was born on the 24th of January,1937 at Lahore, in the then time British India, is without any doubt one of those writers of Indian English poetry who have really worked for the growth, development and furtherance of modern creative poetry right from the seventies and since then have been contributing to it to enrich with the poems of a new standing and tenor tendered to us from time to time.
Now the time has come to make a full-length assessment of his poetry. One among the Parsi quartet, taking Adil Jussawalla, K.D. Katrak and Gieve Patel altogether, he has been plodding his way to leave an imprint of his own individuality and caliber. Sardonic and sarcastic, he is a poet of some hard heart, as because sentimentality has nothing to do with. He sees it all with his hawkish imagery and landscape of delving. Really, a tough talking lies therein. Violence, pestilence, epidemic, drought, famine, bloodshed, riot, murder, suicide, enmity, vengeance, wrath, anger, animality and curfew are the specific words of the poet. As a writer of verse, he is but a tragedian and poems to him as dramatic monologues or the bits of tragedies. Tears are not there into the eyes of the poet and these cannot wet him.
A few have really understood his worth and relevance, so substantial, so robust and healthy and his scribbling is not for a timid heart at all, as because his is a heart of a hunter; that of a falconer. Nature red in tooth and claw is the spirit and he seeks to view life in that perspective, as by training and profession he is an IPS officer, writing poems in English.
Apart from his early education taken here and there, he finally did his M.A. in English from Govt. College, Ludhiana. In 1958, he qualified for the IPS and joined it and the resultant posting and placement thereafter took him to different places, as such Dehradun, Meerut, Agra, Barabanki, Farrukhabad, Luknow, Joshimath, Ranikhet and others in the U.P.
Daruwalla was a Visiting Fellow at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford during 1980-82. Under Orion is the first book of poems with which he starts the poetic journey of his life and it was none but P. Lal who himself brought it out from his Writers Workshop. At that time there had been a few takers of his poetry. But the fist work too showed the promise it had to demonstrate. Apparition in April,1971, Crossing of Rivers, 1976, Winter Poems, 1980, The Keeper of the Dead, 1982, Landscapes, 1987, A Summer of Tigers, 1995, Night River, 2000, The Map-maker, 2002, The Scarecrow and the Ghost, 2004, etc. are the collections of poems. He received the Sahitya Alademi Award for his book named The Keeper of the Dead in 1984. Collected Poems (1970-2005) has appeared from Penguin, India in 2006; Two Decades of Indian Poetry (1960-1980), published in 1980, is his edited volume. Today he is not only a poet, but has turned into a short story writer as well as a novelist.
A modern poet, he has his own terminology and diction to state forth, to give poetic statements, as it is a case with most of the writers of today, so much individualized and personalized in their ways and depiction of life. Most of the poems which they have to us from the poetic pen of Daruwalla appear to be hard and tough from the exterior level, but are not so, as because there is a softer interior to be seen across and admired for and this is his specific quality, which he has been perfecting for so long, and that too since the start.
Daruwalla as a poet is not at all concerned with the innocence and ignorance with which we see it all, but with all brave-manly heart and spirit. The modern English poets are the poetic specimens of the poet under our scrutiny and perusal as he has been delving into the domains of Indian English poesy in his own way. Though there is something very strongly Indian in him, but instead of it, his is a Parsi heart and soul and his ethos, lineage, legacy, history, myth and mysticism cannot of ours which we hold them so blindly, so strongly, as because he has also something of his own to say and to share with. Everything of ours cannot be the way of evaluation for all.
A Parsi poet, if to go deep into his thematic content and life-philosophy, the bits of Zoroaster, what did he say and what it were his teachings, we shall come to mark them naturally. The references to the tower of silence, on which the Parsis place their dead for the scavenger birds to do away with and to the fire hymns find mentioned in the works of the poet apart from the things of his place of growing up and living down. The decades of human time can be penetrated in terms of home-seeking, shelter, displacement, ethnicity and humanism. There is nothing to question him with regard to the theme of Indianness, the process of Indianization that it takes within its course of naturalization and the Indianism he propagates for in the usage and selection of words and terms, as because he is deeply rooted into the soil of India, apart from his legacy, heritage, history, lineage, thought and tradition he belongs to and there is nothing as that to intercept him on the midway in connection with that.
His understanding of India; Indian thought, culture and philosophy can be found in his love for Charvaka and Karna as Adil Jussawalla has for Eklavya. To read Daruwalla is to take into consideration the other part of India which remains incomplete if we know not Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and so on. If Jayanta Mahapatra seems to be inclined towards Odisha and Odia culture and thought, landscape and scenery, Keki N. Daruwalla seems to be inclined towards U.P. as for posting and landscapic imagery and so much beholden to Maharashtra and Gujarat as for Parsi dispersion and searching of roots and nativity and
If we go through the poems of Keki N. Daruwalla, we shall come to feel it that the dramatic monologue, internal rhyme-scheme and tougher exterior which he employs for his poetry take him to the pedestal of Robert Browning and his poems and the violence, cruelty and wolfish wrap of Ted Huhes-like imagery and metaphor present the other side of the creation. A modern poet, he cannot be laid bare of so easily as we think about. Daruwalla’s heart is not at all a Blakian heart, so full of childish innocence and ignorance, nor that of Vaughan looking up to God in thankfulness and astonishment as for to mark the retreat shaded with palm trees, nor Herrickan eve-praying with the daffodils in the evening to part ways, but is one of its kind, Ted Hughesian indeed, but without any Sylvia Plath to be dodged and betrayed, as Hughes did it to a nervous patient so treacherously.
The call of the wild he hears by slinging the gun over the shoulder; the hyenas giving calls at dark eve into the forests, the roars and growls of tigers and lions and the deer fleeing for life is the scenery of his poetry and this too is a truth which but we cannot negate it. The rule of the jungle only the junglees, jungle-dwelling ones know it well, what it happens therein, deep into the forests. Survival of the fittest is the focal point of brooding. The wild will remain wild, treacherous and impregnable, brutal, bloody and bestial. There is nothing that you can do, nor I can. The other violence lies nurtured within as man too is called an animal and sometimes when spurred on or provoked, it comes to in terms of mob violence and gunfire.
As a poet, Daruwalla is a tragedian as because his is a tragic vision of life, seen through adverse conditions, situations, circumstances and times. There is nothing as the Hamletian dilemma of to be or not to be; the sense of guilt taking over. He is hard of heart and bold enough as the barrel of the gun will speak forth. There is nothing as daya-maya; a policeman on duty with the revolver stuck into the waist is he Daruwalla the poet. The ups and downs of the poetic diagram show him in different shreds of thought and reflection. The two-forked facets of his poetry, the widening horizons, diversifying dimensions and broadening spectrums of his delving are beyond our deliberation. The satiric tone, laughing mockery, ironic tinge and tougher talk are the salient features of his poetry.
Toughened stand and hardened heart do it all; complete the process, leaving no scope for sentimentality to creep in. The hawk, the kite and the vulture, not the scarecrow, are therein and he tries to see all though that landscape and vision. The poet does not shed crocodile’s tears as for feminism sake. It is very difficult to say who is really a feminist in the right sense of the term. Are they not all for namesake just? Feminism has now turned into a wolf’s cry or may it that the shepherd boy is crying that the wolf has come, has come as a boyish prank. Hearing the call, a few will turn up naturally, but a day comes when the wolf appears really and he calls for help, but none comes to his rescue as for taking it befalse. Similar is the case with feminism and the so-called, media-savvy paparazzi feminists.
Draupadi as a small poem from The Map-Maker speaks it all, how the style and the tenor of his writing:
The travails of Draupadi
It seems—some people have it
in their bleeding stars:
first exploited by the Pandavas,
five to one,
then by the Kauravas,
hundred to one
and now by the feminists
(Keki N.Daruwalla, Collected Poems (1970-2005), Penguin Books, India, New Delhi, 2006, p.340)
A globe-trotter, a tour-taker, an adventurer, he is like Tennyson’s Ulysses or the ancient mariner of Coleridge, holding the hand, telling the tales of different climes, nationalities, historical myths and alienations, but not at all with any kind of remorse or expiation. Wrath and anger, bloodshed and violence are just elementary to all. In his thought and vision, he can move to Iran, Palestine, Syria and others. Daruwalla is not a writer like Wordsworth who will write To The Skylark and Shelley who will To A Skylark, he is a poet of the hawk, the kite and the vulture ruminating over, meditating and swooping down to catch and take a hold of not the vegetarian stuffs, but the non-vegetarian things. But the depleting population of the vultures maraud the self of the poet. The tight and compact poems which he has given are not at all easy to be handled with. The silence of the curfew-clamped towns, man-less streets, shops shut down, the palanquin-bearers taking the cholera-patients away from the rural areas and the Ghagra in spate, the flood waters swirling and swerving, corroding the banks and engulfing a vast tract of land by inundating it are the scenery of his. The Robert Frostian snowy, eve-time mystery and beauty of the woods not, but one with the calls of hyenas, tigers, jackals and wolfs is the poetic space of the poet. Blake’s lamb and the child will fear to dare into.
The Professor Condoles is one of those representative poems of Daruwalla where the protagonist, taking an accident, tries to define what it is tragedy, how does it come to all of a sudden keeping the people so benumbed and awe-stricken, blood gets spilled over, left out with nothing to do and nothing to complain against fate and destiny:
Your brother died, you said?
Eleven years old and run over by a car?
I am so terribly sorry to hear it!
(Keki N. Daruwalla, Winter Poems, Allied Publishers, New Delhi,1980, p.58)
Such is the masculine verve, fervor, strength and vigor of the poet, that his condensed and cramming poetic statements have drawn praise from not only the critics from India, but from foreign, as such Robert Graves, James Finn Cotter, C. Wrightman and others. The Unrest of Desire, though of just three stanzas, covers in the psychological things. The words, such as the unrest of desire, shadow in the heart, cave-impulse at the mouth and whatever mask you slap upon your face can show it all about his diction and phraseology. Psychological insight, probing temperament and facial reading which he applies in while dealing with the small poem named The Unrest of Desire add to it differently. The poet means to say it that internal disturbances or feelings going underneath themselves reveal it what it is taking place at the inward level. The embers can never be kept hidden under the cover of the ashes. The things of the heart the face will speak it up. There is nothing as that can keep it hidden or may conceal it. Even if one puts on the mask to hide himself, one day that too will de-mask automatically. The inner conscience can never negate it. Truth will hammer down out the things lying hidden and the outer plasters will break forth to fall down. The slabs of concrete cannot keep it hidden. An attempt to give it some outlook of an aboriginal art too will fail finally and the truth will come to light. The tongue will automatically click out, may be it a slip of wording. Inner tumult and turbulence taking over can never be hidden. The face is the speaker itself and the eye the indicator.
Let us how see how he takes to in the poem The Unrest of Desire selected in The Keeper of the Dead collection:
You can’t erase the burn. It will char your dreams
however you bury the shadow in the heart.
(Crossing of Rivers and The Keeper of the Dead, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1991, p.43)
Curfew in a Riot-torn City, Pestilence, The Epileptic, Monologue in the Chambal Valley, Shiva: At Timarsain, Dialogues with a Third Voice, My Poetry, A Simple Poet, etc. are the poems which figure in Under Orion collection of poems and the poems of the first collection itself speaks of what the poet is going to be in near future, all about his poetic personality and its composition and the selection of poetic themes and words. Fire-hymn, The Snowman, Pilgrimage to Badrinath, Carvak, Routine, Love in Meerut, etc. lie in included in Apparition in April anthology of his own. History, Finalities, Of Muhammad Ali Pasha, The Chillum, The Glassblower, Childhood Poem, Fragment, Chess, Insomnia, etc. are the poems which have been inducted in A Summer of Tigers. Exile and the Chinese Poets, Living on Hyphens, Partition Ghazal, A Faiz Quatrain, Letter from Helsinki, On a Dying Millennium, Egyptian Testament, Going Down the Night River, etc. are the poems of Night River collection.
Death of a Bird which figures in Crossing of Rivers is one like the shooting episode of Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell, but the context is different here. The poet as the hunter shoots the bird, but the cries and shrieks of the other mate touch him deeply, as it is cautioned by his ever watchful, accompanying beloved. The evening changing into the night too corroborates the atmosphere and some sort of guilt takes over. Instead of the depiction, the protagonist does not melt so much required to be as the lady speaker is concluding her part. The poem in some way reminds us of one of the cronch birds killed by the falconer and thereafter follows the shriek of the mate and the scene tears apart the heart of poet Valmiki, but the case is different here, as in Daruwalla, the barrel of the gun speaks it itself. The poem is tragic as well as revelatory and here he strikes the pathos indirectly and this is the thing which the readers expect from him.
The mood is one of Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess:
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her?
(Palgrave’s golden Treasury, p.350)
Old Sailor, The Hebrew Professor, Nativity Poem, The Ghana Scholar Reflects on His Thesis, The Medhdi of Sudan, Agni Sutta, The Birth of Maya, Roof Observatory, Of Insights, Mirror Poem, Time, Bars, TwoWords, etc. are the poems included in The Map-maker collection of poems. The poem Migrations from The Map-Maker collection is without any doubt a poem which reminds us of the painful partition and the aftermath of it, so many got displaced and separated, so many lost the precious lives of their. It was just like a whirlwind which K.A. Abbas felt in his story The Refugee, which Khushwant Singh in Train toPakistan, Krishan Chander in Peshawar Express and others felt it. Here the poet is quite reflective and reminiscent of an age of turmoil and unrest gone by, but the memories still go on pricking him. He remembers the word of his mother telling of her own mother and with that the search for location begins with. But we modern men are heartless, as we continue to be blind to our faith, respect not others.
Though in India, his memories and reflections travel back to across the Jhelum river to Iran, refreshing the memory of Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustum. Here the poem itself speaks out clearly. To read him is not to be able to digest his materials easily as he draws his matters from foreign climes and environs, trespassing boundaries, where visas and passports can do no good. A poet of displaced and disintegrated psyche, he goes on searching constantly and he does not have any affinity with the word ‘home’ and a sense of belonging. A Research and Analysis Wing additional director, he also adds to his experience of visiting foreign countries together his own ethos and racial literature.
In the first poem, from The Keeper of The Dead, titled Hawk, the poet writes,
I saw the wild hawk-king this morning
riding an ascending wind
as he drilled the sky.
The land beneath him was filmed with salt:
grass-seed, insect, bird—
nothing could thrive here. But he was lost
in the momentum of his own gyre,
a frustrated parricide on the kill.
The fuse of his hate was burning still.
Let us compare with The Eagle of Alfred Lord Tennyson,
He clings to the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
(Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, With A Fifth Book selected by John
Press, Oxford Univ. Press, Calcutta, 2000, p.331)
A stanza from Ted Hughes’ Hawk Roosting will corroborate it,
I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.
It is a charge against Daruwalla that some of the words which he uses put the readers into trouble. Side by side it is also a truth that he uses the verbose structure for his bold and tight vocabulary. As a poet, we would call him bombastic as well sardonic and sarcastic, mocking at, holding the tongue in cheek. To go deep into his meaning is to open the dictionaries and consult the things of other cultural
spaces. If he moves to Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria or elsewhere as per his RAW assignment and assessment, he will include that stuff of his paper into the texture of his poetry. Those in the RAW deal with the domestic conditions and foreign policies of specific nations and this is true in respect of his stance. The poems which they have come from the pen of Daruwalla are not entertainment poems, but are as such that the reader will just flip over the pages rather taking him into confidence. He will scratch the head for meaning as it is not in the lines and stanzas. The problem is this that he is a Parsi writing poems in English and the other thing is this that his personality is composed of what he has seen in the erstwhile undivided Punjab of the then time India. Hindustani stuffs, Arabic and Persian wisps and whiffs combined with those of the undivided U.P. make a way into the poetry of his.
The other thing is this that he is an Indian Police Officer switching over finally to Research and Analysis Wing of the Govt. of India. Hence, poetry as something crude material is in the grasp of Daruwalla. The barrel of the gun will speak. There is nothing as that to compromise. Death, disease and ailment are not going to weaken his heart and these constitute a larger bulk and chunk of his hardcore poetry. There is nothing as that to carry forward for the emotional sake as he has not seen poetry in that perspective. To him, life is an accident; a tragedy, of course not an Indian tragedy, but a Greek one. The images of the vultures, kites and hawks sitting in his poetry adds to the imagery of the poem and strengthens the mythical base archetypally. Violence is but in our nature. To comprehend the
poetry of Daruwalla is definitely to be having a tough time as because he is really a very difficult poet. From the morgue, sees he human life and the worth of its existence; from the Tower of Silence, feels he the value and worth of living. The dead bodies placed over the Tower and the flesh-eating birds circling over and perched to cleanse the flesh off the skeletons and the structure. This too is scenery of life which you accept it or not. As a poet, Daruwalla is a landscapist and his poetry covers up a larger territory and domain, the landscapes widening and widening, trespassing Arunachal one can slip into China and there across Kashmir, lies it Afghanistan and the rest. His landscape is one taken from a map-maker who keeps mapping, nay at all a border-man.
He is a poet of flood, drought, famine; outbreak of an epidemic, the cholera ward, he is a poet of the morgue and the Tower of Silence, where the dead bodies are kept and the autopsy done and the bodies placed upon the structure as for the birds of prey to feast and feed upon, he is a poet of violence and curfew-clamped towns, riot-stricken and burning, controlling mob fury and patrolling the areas, he is a poet of the call of wild nature, punctuated by the evening falling in the woods and the wild animals calling. Daruwalla is a poet of the hawk, the vulture and the kite which are now a rarer species almost on the brink of extinction. His things may appear different, but are the words of reckoning. So much psychological and sociological, he observes the things from his own standpoint, human nature and ailment, society and culture, holding belief in disbelief. Daruwalla is a poet of The Eagle of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ted Hughes’ Hawk Roosting and The Tiger of William Blake. The hawk imagery is crucial to the understanding of his poetry and he derives from substantially. Human innocence, the innocence of the heart is not the thing of his concern, but ignorance seconded by wrath and anger takes the center space. Criminology is but a part of human nature.
Keki.N. Daruwalla describes his love of Indian English language in his own way:
No one believes me when I say
my mistress is half-caste. Perched
on the genealogical tree somewhere
is a Muslim midwife and a Goan cook.
But she is more mixed than that.
Down the genetic lane, babus
and professors of English
have also made their one-night contributions.
Keki N. Daruwalla is not at all a common man’s poet, but a skilled craftsman, deft and dexterous; a master poet of landscapes; a tragedian falling short of becoming a playwright rather than a poet substantial and consummate in his poetical art and his stanzas the stanzas of dramatic monologues brought on from Robert Browning and curtail matters from G.M. Hopkins and the imagery drawn from Ted Hughes. With nothing to dwell upon the things of pity and compassion commonly, he pursues the track of his, considering violence, criminology and bloodshed, disease, death and ailment as a part of human nature and life. There is nothing as that to revert it and derail the process of making and un-making. There is something always as that of the command and order in him and he often starting with an address or an abrupt start. In the midst of the outward hard exterior, lies it an inward softer interior to be seen and marked through in him and his poetry and one needs to address that first in order to comprehend his vision and philosophy of life which it lies interspersed with. The poet as ever seems to be searching something in his poetry, his lost land and mother tongue, the quest for an identity grips and he seeks for the company of older acquaintances and things, which perhaps are ordained otherwise, lying in the abyss of treacherous history. He too had everything there, but was compelled to leave behind, marking the abrupt change in human nature and mentality and the situations doing the rounds there. Displacement and dislocation are the two main things of his poetry and he is in search of an ethos to take refuge in. Instead of that, experience has taught him otherwise and he is what one can see it thoroughly.
Winter View (Midlands) as a small poem from A Summer of Tigers can be quoted in full:
The fields enclosed, but no sign of someone
driving a stake in or stringing a wire.
The streams sapphire-clear as they ripple over
reflections of long-drowned church spires.
They have superior rain-gods and grass-gods
and clover-gods--the whole earth blessed with green
under skies always cursed with grey—
and all the trees charred by an unseen fire.
(Collected Poems, ibid, p.257)
More by :
Bijay Kant Dubey
An IPS as a poet
Writing poems in English,
Verbose and bombastic,
Purgatory and cathartic,
Poems as the blood clots going off.
A tragedian in verse,
The world a study in tragedy
And man and woman
but the tragic artistes,
A poet of curfew,
Curfew orders being given to
Shoot at sight
The trouble-makers and creators.
Life pulsating through the latticed windows,
With pin drop silence,
The streets looking deserted,
Security staff patrolling the areas.
The evening descending upon,
The hyenas calling,
Now it's time to return back home
And the hunter returning to
With the rifle into the hands.
The morgue, the postmortem house
The Tower of Silence,
The periphery of his poetry,
A poet deriving from Aristotle's Poetics
As for his poetic inspiration.
The areas under flood waters
Swirling and inundating,
People wading through waist-deep water,
Houses half under
And the twilight falling upon.
The palanquin-carriers taking the bride not away
But the cholera patient
To a distant ward
Of a hospital
From the unconnected country.
Tragedy as a literary type
Or the term
The thing of is deliberation,
Character, destiny, flaw,
Hamartia, peripetia and hubris the things of his.
To quote in the words of R.Parthasarathy,
Drauwalla has been praised for his bitter, satiric tone, which is rather exceptional in Indian verse in English. Instances may be cited from Under Orion: ‘Dialogues with a Third Voice’, ‘Collage J’ and ‘Death by Burial’.
My conscience is a road--
a childhood has been trampled here
concretized and stamped over
with the feet of passing years.
We erode each other, the road and I
neither giving way,
I scrape the road’s back as I walk,
my heel is horned
calloused and worn away.
(‘Dialogues with a Third Voice’)
The landscape of northern India--hills, plains and rivers--is evoked in many poems, notably in the ‘The Ghaghra in Spate’, where the ‘terror of the villagers at night as they fought the river’ is recorded with compassion and understanding. Daruwalla writes,’ I am not an urban writer and my poems are rooted in the rural landscape. My poetry is earthy, and I like to consciously keep it that way, shunning sophistication which, while adding gloss, takes away from the power of verse’. There is an obviously Indian element in Daruwalla’s verse, especially in his use of the landscape. When it isn’t ornamental, the landscape comes alive as a presence on its own. The language then pared to the bone. Images are concrete and exact.
‘Writing a poem’, says Daruwalla, ‘is like a clot going out of the blood.’ This is true of a poem like ‘Death of a Bird’ which has an intensity, a thrust that makes it a significant experience.
Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets, Chosen and Edited by R.Parthasarathy, Oxford University Press, India, New Delhi, Sixteenth impression, 2002, p.12)
Poetry seems to be a personal talk and Daruwalla does it in his own way without being corroded by the academia. His consciousness is one of the Parsi psyche and self, coming to the surface level sometimes which he cannot resist it at all, bound to have its outlets. Personal tragedy, talk with the father and other things cast an impact of their own here in the portal put before. The poem Fire-Hymn which is from Apparition in April strikes us with his vision and circumference of Zoroaster and his Zoroastrianism:
The burning ghat erupted phosphorescence:
and wandering ghost-lights frightened passers-by
as moonlight scuttled among the bones.
Once strolling at dawn past river-bank and ghat
we saw embers losing their cruel redness
to the grey ash that swallows all. Half-cooked limbs
bore witness to the fire’s debauchery.
My father said, ‘You see those half-burnt fingers
and bone-stubs? The fire at times forgets its dead!’
A Zoroastrain I, my child-fingers clenched
into a little knot of pain,
I swore to save fire
from the sin of forgetfulness.
It never forgot, and twenty years since
as I consigned my first-born to the flames--
the nearest Tower of Silence1 was a thousand miles--
the fire-hymn said to me, ‘You stand forgiven.’
Broken, yet rebellious, I swore this time
to save it from the sin of forgiving.
(Ibid, p. 18)
There is in Daruwalla the same which it is available in Aldous Huxley’s Benares. If the poems of Daruwalla dealing with cultural space are read and the ice is cut, we shall come to see the things with a skepticism and sardonic criticism of his and to be discerned in that way. The things of this type are already available in E.M.Forster, Pearl S.Buck, Aldous Huxley and so on. Poetry talk myth talk, drama talk and tragedy talk are the talks of Daruwalla the poet and he cannot help thinking without these. Sometimes his postings and placements bring him close to the Ganga and the reverence with which the people worship it which the poet has himself come to mark them as rites and rituals casting an impact of their own. Alkananda, Mansarovar, Gangotri, Hardwar, Prayag, Kashi, etc. are the other points of his poetry which he refers to in a make-believe way. To My Daughter Rookzain is a poem of filial love, affection and bonding. Shiva At Timarsain as a poem relays it what a Hindu poet too cannot reveal and hence, it is very difficult to assess a robust genius like that of his stature.
The two poems entitled My Poetry and A Simple Poet from the first poetry collection Under Orion may tell a bit about his choice of words and the poetic paraphrase yet to be chosen as it is the first book of poems to have been begun with.
The legs don’t move
sometimes the back turns over
like a river changing beds
sometimes the eye gropes
towards an object--
at times the arms thrash around
But the legs are withered roots
memory has slipped up somewhere
for I don’t remember
what hit me in the spine
to turn the legs torpid.
(Keki N.Daruwalla, Collected Poems (1970-2005), Penguin Books, India, New Delhi, 2006, p.70)
A Simple Poet
He writes so simply, damn him,
that learned men
are hard put to understand him.
Keki N. Daruwalla's Works:
Under Orion, Writers Workshop, India, 1970
Apparition in April, Writers Workshop, 1971
Sword & Abyss, Vikas Pub., 1979
Winter Poems, Allied Publishers, 1980
The Keeper of the Dead, Oxford University Press, 1982
Crossing of Rivers, Oxford Univ. Press, 1985
Landscapes, Oxford University Press, 1987
A Summer of Tigers, Indus, 1995
The Minister for Permanent Unrest & Other Stories, Orient Blackswan, 1996
Night River, Rupa & Co., 2000
The Map-maker, Orient Blackswan, 2002
The Scarecrow and the Ghost, Rupa & Co., 2004
A House in Ranikhet, Rupa & Co, 2003
Collected Poems ( 1970-2005), Penguin Books, India, 2006
The Poetic Base of Keki N. Daruwalla: A Study In Modern Creative Poetry
Keki Daruwalla, whom I have never met, but with whose work I have been acquainted with for several years, is the one Indian poet writing in English in whom I recognize the compunction to tell the whole truth, however, cruel.
(Keki N.Daruwalla, Winter Poems, Allied Publishers, Back jacket cover, New Delhi)
These authors from India –all use English for their poetry—usually celebrate death as a process in things. Keki N. Daruwalla’s “Death of a Bird”, for example, joins love-making with hunting and ill-omens….. Daruwalla’s description in “The Epileptic” holds another moment of horror in factual focus. This poem combines perfect narrative tension with psychological perception so that the reader is drawn into the scene and then let go with the rest of the street observers. This seizure is worthy of a Dostoevski novel.
----James Finn Cotter in the “Hudson Review”
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
---William Blake in The Tyger
(Edited By Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Shorter Fourth Edition, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London, 1997, p.395)
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see,
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Valmiki feels imaginatively the pain of one of the pair of cronch birds when struck by the falconer dead and blood oozing out and the lines of poetry come gushing forth to him, but contrary to that, poetry comes to Daruwalla, when the lead from the gun kills the mating bird and the female crying in pain, shrieking in anguish and agony just like the mariner of Coleridge who shot the albatross. But the female companion together with the poet-protagonist cautions him to be bewaring of the forest and the fear lurking in the call of the hyena. Some sort of remorse and penance takes over the female protagonist as for the kill and the fall from the crag and she counsels it differently to be back home. Death of a Bird is one such poem to sadden us, making the hairs stand on, with the terror and horror stories to twitch us inwardly.
The second stanza from the same poem, Death of a Bird, but from Crossing of Rivers may be put as an example of that:
or almost dying:
his eyes were glazed, the breast still throbbed.
We tucked him pulsing as he was in our rucksack.
The female rose, in terror crying!
With bird-blood on our hands we walked,
and as the skies broke into rags
of mist, why did our footsteps drag?
(Crossing of Rivers and The Keeper of the Dead, Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi, 1991, p.47)
But Dauwalla needs to learn from S.T.Coleridge as he writes about sin and expiation, the spill of blood and the crime committed and the guilty soul confessing it, doing the penance for it in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner:
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
(The Norton Anthology of Poetry, p.446)
I saw a third—I heard his voice:
It is the Hermit good!
He singeth loud his godly hymns
That he makes in the wood.
He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away
The Albatross’s blood.
Those who do not have any idea with regard to the poetic horizon, nature and scope of the poetry of Keki N.Daruwalla will have to turn over the pages of his works hard as for laying them bare and to struggle for meaning laboriously, as it is not so easy at all to take to simply, dispense with the text of the kind and to comprehend the poetic base of the creative poet writing in English; the harder exterior, verbose structure, bombastic words, tougher diction and the sardonic and satiric tone of his lying subdued and latent underneath at one go, of course the way he puts down and handles his creative verve and strength, line and length, rhyme and rhythm. There is nothing as that he has got from his writing tradition and the school of poetry he has been nurtured in. He is a poet of his own stature and delving, as poetry-lines have come to him in their own train and trail of thought and idea, image and penetration, and is subjective, impressionistic and cathartic indeed, and this very notion turns him sometimes into a tragedian in verse, as per his lines. Sober and serious, sturdy and tough, he takes to his poetic recourse in his own way and never has laughed and smiled perhaps. A Parsi by birth and standing, just like Adil Jussawalla, Gieve Patel and K.D.Katrak, he has been plodding his own to make you feel or to register his presence. The mind cannot go elsewhere barring death, violence, bloodshed, hatred, vengeance, jealousy, cold blood or bad blood murder which is but the one side of the picture while on the other plague, malaria, diarrhea, cholera and others take the centrespace of his poetry. Famine, drought and floods present the scenes and sites. His introspection; the horizon of his studies, a few can comprehend that as psychology, sociology, politics, ethnicity, diaspora dais, searching of roots and tradition engage the inner space.
Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla, born in Loni, Burhanpur, in 1937 in the then time British India, is the son of N.C. Daruwalla, an eminent professor, who taught in Loni Institute of Literature (LIL). But after the Partition, his family left Punjab while his elder brother stayed back and moved to Junagadh in Gujarat, then to Rampur. As a result of that, he grew up getting his education in various schools through mediums. An M.A. in English Literature from Government College, Ludhiana, University of Punjab, he qualified for the Indian Police Service in 1958 and was posted in the Terai region of the U.P. and as a result of that placement, he got the opportunity of seeing the lives pulsating in those far flung regions before being shifted to the Cabinet Secretariat. He also worked as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on International Affairs. Finally, he retired from Research And Analysis Wing as its Additional Director.
Under Orion is the first book of poems with which he starts the poetic journey of his life and it was none but P.Lal who himself brought it out from his Writers Workshop, Calcutta. At that time there had been a few takers of his poetry. But the first work too showed the promise it had to demonstrate in form and content. Apparition in April,1971, came into the footsteps of the former to punctuate the thud and the footfall of his masculine poetry. Crossing of Rivers, 1976, Winter Poems, 1980, The Keeper of the Dead, 1982, Landscapes, 1987, A Summer of Tigers, 1995, Night River, 2000, The Map-maker, 2002, The Scarecrow and the Ghost, 2004, etc. are the collections of poems which he went on authoring one book after another. Some of his collections are thinner no doubt, but the essence of his poetry lies therein. Daruwalla received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book named The Keeper of the Dead in 1984. Collected Poems (1970-2005) has appeared from Penguin, India in 2006; Two Decades of Indian Poetry (1960-1980), published in 1980, is his edited volume. Today he is not only a poet, but has turned into a short story writer as well as a novelist and this happens with the writers of fame as they can sail through easily even though is not.
Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla, born in Loni, Burhanpur, in 1937 in the then time British India, is the son of N.C. Daruwalla, an eminent professor, who taught in Loni Institute of Literature (LIL). But after the Partition, his family left Punjab while his elder brother stayed back and moved to Junagadh in Gujarat, then to Rampur. As a result he grew up getting his schooling and studying in various schools and mediums. He obtained his master's degree in English Literature from Government College, Ludhiana, University of Punjab and joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1958, and eventually becoming Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on International Affairs. His posting in the police service took him to Dehradun, Meerut, Agra, Barabanki, Farrukhabad, Lucknow, Josimath, Ranikhet and others. He was also in the Cabinet Secretariat. Whatever we call Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla, a major Indian poet, new voice or an established poet, is just to corroborate his presence irrespective of the poetic output of the annals and the evolution of this genre. As a writer, he has written over 12 books. His first novel "For Pepper and Christ" appeared in 2009. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984 as for his poetry collection, "The Keeper of the Dead", by the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters. The poems which he has jotted down and sent for publication have appeared in Antioch Review (Ohio), Poet Lore (Boston), Mahfil (Chicago), Trans-Atlantic Review (London), Poetry Australia (Sydney), Westerly (Victoria), Night River, The Map-maker, The Scarecrow and the Ghost are the recent collections of poems which he has authored to add to feathers. His poetry has drawn attention and applause not from Nissim Ezekiel, R.Parthasarathy and others, but from Khushwant Singh too.
To have a tryst with Keki N.Daruwalla and his poetry is to probe deep; to delve deep into the mind, psyche and heart of the poet under our perusal and purview as he holds observation aloft, comes to mark society and culture. Apart from it, the call of the wild in the form of fire and shriek takes the space of our poetry reading sessions. The junglees will remain junglees, brutal and wild, the tigers, leopards and hyennas. The hunter and the hunted have the tales of their own to be put forward to. A poet not at all in the Blakian mould, he slips to the darker side of Creation, the tiger taking over the lamb, and this is his vision of poetry which he seeks to penetrate deep. To see it in the Alfred Lord Tennysonian terms, Nature red in tooth and claw will always continue to evade us. Since the publication of Under Orion, the poet has been dwelling upon the landscape to strengthen his base and that he has been perfecting it quite deftly. A few have really come to feel it what it is in the poetry of the poet who has nothing to deal with but human predicament, tragedy, loss and violence and the writ of destiny to commemorate and nurture in as for dabbling in verse. Is he Mussolinian and Hitlerian in his depiction of hatred and vengeance? There is something like that of the grave-diggers of Hamlet, reflecting upon life in an as usual way. The Greek tragedies and the ancient classics continue to hang over the mind of the poet. There is nothing as that to hear the sad and solemn music of humanity as Wordsworth hears it. The Jacobean and the Senecan plays continue to take the canvas away from him. The weightage and compunction with which he deals with is rarely to be found elsewhere. The hard exterior sometimes poses a problem before the readers while the interior tends to a lyricality and there is music of words and verse coming down to us through the medium of dramatic monologues. His poems are the poems of a hard heart, very-very unsentimental. With the tears dries down, he views the world very callously. To change the metaphor, we may title our paper, the unsentimental heart at work.
Winter Poems, Angst, Hunger—74, Variations, Graffiti, Caries, Lorca, The Professor Condoles, For My Daughter (Anaheita), Einstein Explains to God the End of the World and Bombay Prayers are the contents of the work titled Winter Poems. The first content contains in a few poems, titled otherwise. The second Angst is a poem itself. The Professor Condoles is a separate poem, tragic in details and narration, dealing with an unwanted road accident and the misfortunes to befall man.
Your brother died, you said?
Eleven years old and run over by a car?
I was so terribly sorry to hear it!
Pardon me, not tragic, as you said just now.
Unfortunate is the word, terribly unfortunate.
Nothing could be more…more unpleasant.
But “tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless,”
as Anouilh said. This was an accident…
depravity of circumstance.
There was no air of design about it, you follow?
(Winter Poems, ibid, p.58)
Hardy’s fatalism can be read and marked in here. The Professor Condoles is one such poem voicing his concept of tragedy and the tragic living of ours. What is tragedy? How does it take place? The situations and circumstances too have a role to play. The time and the moment in which it occurs desperately, who can say about them and judge? The ill-fated accidents, they themselves contain in the elements unexplainable. Rather explaining in terms of karma and bhoga, he chooses and explains in the western terminology of tragic definitions. Just like a professor of tragedy, Daruwalla keeps lecturing in the poem under our perusal, one from Greek, Latin and English tragedies. His lectures of tragedy appear to be the lectures of A.C.Bradley.
The second stanza from the poem has enough to say about the unseen elements of an accident and the tragedy of human living, the writ of destiny and the tangled crisscrosses of fate-lines:
I cannot stand an accident,
the blood clotting on the tarmac,
the brain spilling over
like an uncooked stew!
The moment I see a crowd thrombosed
around a victim, I take a detour
to forestall a physical reaction.
Tragedy is different, one aesthetic layer
on the other to absorb the thrust,
with neither desire nor revulsion aroused.
The poem appears to have been on the tragedy, the major constituents and ingredients of it. The poet is trying to define what it is tragedy. How does it take place? How the elements of it? What are the causes? On doing it, several things relating to destiny, karma, dharma, fate, hamartia, catharsis, hubris and others come to the forte of our discussion. His conversational style reminds us of the usage of Nissim Ezekiel applied in the poem, Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S. and the geography department teacher’s English. The ghosts of Aeschylus, Seneca, Shakespeare, Marlowe and others continue to haunt the writer. The curfew-clamped towns, morgues, post-mortem houses, cholera wards, mob furies, floods inundating the areas and swirling around, accidents and so on take the centrespace of his poetry. Vengeance, hatred, enmity, lust and greed come under his psychological purview as for a probe and penetration. The poet does the tougher talks with his tougher phraseology and diction.
But Bombay Prayers open up the bare heart of the poet who is in a prayerful tone here in the stanzas of it and the poem is very much like the ones expressed in Nissim Ezekiel’s Philosophy where the poet asks not to reveal what it cannot be explained and Hymns in Darkness. A Parsi worshipper of the Holy Fire and the Fire Hymns, he pictures the doonger vari, the Tower of Silence on which the Parsis place their dead as for the flesh-eating birds to cleanse forth. The Hamletian grave-diggers too have got a role into the hands of the poet. Sometimes he talks of different cultures and climes and this true to him. The cultural spaces of his take to transcontinental, intra-provincial and inter-faith obligations, beyond the boundaries and across the borders, he traverses into to find his poetic faiths and beliefs and this conforms to his mythico-historical base of his poetry. Beyond the Himalayan ranges, traversing the seven rivers, he tries to locate and re-locate the roots of nativity, historiography, archaeology and cartography as for his fixtures. As a writer of poesy, he is verbose and bombastic and his exterior is one of dramatic monologues. The poetic persona of his is not less than a performing actor. There are similar things like those of Tennyson’s Ulysses, Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner and Browning’s My Last Duchess in Keki N. Daruwalla’s poetry.
The Glass Blower: Selected Poems which has poems from nine collections with a few more new compositions has appeared from the foreign press based in England. Though alienated from the ethos, archetypes, history, myth, mysticism and spirituality of the land, which is but a varied and diverse mass, so multi-lingual, multi-racial and multi-ethnic that it is difficult to calculate and say in confidence, but instead of he tries to weave his poetic tales privately and personally. Though we call him a poet of the rural landscape, but is not so totally, the soul of India which resides in villages does not get a fuller description. Just a chunk of land seen and purveyed, he narrates and photographs it. Superficially, he can penetrate deep into the saffronites on the ghats of Benares, but what is that for which they loiter in the Gangotri regions, he will not be able to say that. Something definitely ails and maligns the Indian Hindu psyche and it is therein expressed in him.
What is poetry to Keki N. Daruwalla, is a frequently-asked question to be dispensed and dwelt upon .differently. Rather than handling in an oft-quoted way, he takes to otherwise. Though the Indian English poets form a minority as for alienating themselves from Indian thought, culture, philosophy, religion, spirituality, metaphysics; its Vedism, Upanishadism and Puranic studies which have carried down over the years, but instead of being glued to directly, there is something in Daruwalla to be called Indian in this age of rampant urbanization, cosmopolitanism, commercialization and privatization. The other side of the picture too is this that he is a Parsi and hence the things of his consciousness will definitely borrow from the cultural ice and space of his own ethos, milieu, legacy, heritage and lineage. There is nothing there as attachment in the poetry of Daruwalla as he has chosen to dwell in here. had it would been otherwise, he would have told of Iran and so on. First of all, he is a Parsi, the second is this that he is a police officer. The other thing is this that we shall like to drive the birds of prey away from even sitting on the rooftops of ours, but he will not as the Parsis expose their dead on the Towers of Silence. But today we need to protect the hawks, vultures, kites and others as for the fall in their numbers miserably and it is a matter of ecological concern and the eco-watch now-a-days. To understand him is to understand Zoroaster and his Zoroastrianism, the Zend Avesta, his concept of Ahirman and Ahurmazda. Poetry to Daruwalla is purgatory, cathartic, going of the blood clots; poetry is wild beasts, bloody and brutal on the prowl, the hyenas calling and the eve-time darkening, a book of tragedy, its types and terms, dealing with hubris, hamartia, tragic irony, dramatic justice, sin and suffering; poetry to Daruwalla is riot-affected areas, clamped under curfew, prohibitory orders given to, streets manless and lonely, wearing a deserted look and the windows and doors shut down completely with a pin drop silence, shoot at sight order given to. The flood-affected areas with the rivers flowing above the danger level and the people wading through the waist deep waters, buffaloes wallowing or swept away are the things which his poetic camera captures and clicks in the twilight of the scenery; the landscape lying submerged or under water. The writ of destiny and happiness is but a bubble in the whole episode of man’s life, these form the basic tenets and canons of his observational poetry. The Ghagra in Spate is one such poem which deserves our attention in this regard.
The man who is reading him for the first time may not take to liking as because it depends on the reading habit to be able to appreciate and admire him. Generally, the standard-text readers may not like his poetry as is the case with most of the contemporary writers of the modern age. Like most of the Indian writers of English verse, he too represents the minority and this is the case with many of the practitioners as they like to pick the urban space and urban values as for a delving and delineation. The search for meaning gets lost in the jargon of words and these appear to be jarring stanzas rather than emotional and sentimental presentation. To read his verses is to feel like an onion layered after layered. His consciousness and psyche is that of the Parsi race and ethnicity and the historicity connected with it. The border man not, but the map-maker is the protagonist of his poetry as he keeps track of tracing and mapping the geographical boundaries. In the heart of hearts, one may find the pains for the search of a lost tongue in Daruwalla. The rhetoric of Daruwalla is the click and clink of the revolver. Poetry springs from the barrel of the gun, not from the gun of Mao, but from the gun of Daruwalla. A brave-heart, he is a stout fellow. Daruwalla is a poet of the hard heart, not the sentimental heart. His protagonist is a morgue-watcher or cleaner or a burning ghat-guarding man, an agent-like tax collector on duty. Why to place a scarecrow on the building under construction as the Paris keep their dead on the Towers of Silence for the flesh-eating birds to cleanse forth the body of the dead soul? Secondly, to a policeman, accidents, dead bodies, post-mortems, autopsies and morgues are the common things; a routine thing to see, check and see. The reasons of an accident, none knows it why it takes place? Diarrhea, cholera, arthritis, gangrene, small pox, etc. are the code words of his poetry. Generally, the palanquins carry away the brides in sixteen shringaras, make-ups to their unknown homes, far-off destinations of the bridegrooms, but in Daruwalla one may see the same palanquin used in to take away the patients to nearer hospitals from the far flung villages of the dark hamlets and thorps. The theatre of tragedy is the theatre of his; not the theatre of silence or the absurd. Jayanta’s may be the theatre of the absurd, but his is of the tragedy, tragic irony, flaw in character, poetic justice and the irony of fate or destiny. The tragedies of Marlowe, Shakespeare and Webster are there to enlighten upon. The Duchess of Malfi, Hamlet, Macbeth, Dr.Faustus, are the properties of his. Daruwalla’s is a space of Jim Corbett and of Kipling’s Moglie and Bagheera, but the whispers of the evening descending upon the forest ranges and the mountainous wild impregnable seconded by the calls of the hyenas and wolves and the forests in conspiracies with them are not so easy to be comprehensible at one go which but William Blake felt it long ago in The Tiger poem and G.M.Hopkins in the duality of the Creation as marked in Pied Beauty.
Poems to Daruwalla are subjective recordings of the impressions and imprints and he cannot let them miss. Subjective and impressionistic, he is psychological and sociological. Daruwalla’s is a guilty mind as he keeps indulging in the criminality of man. Violence, villainy, hatred, vengeance, revenge, bloodshed, fury, wrath, anger, are keywords to the understanding of his poetry.
Padma Shri for Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla ( for the year 2014 )
Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla who has been writing poems in English since the seventies is an IPS officer and that too an M.A. in English, instead of being a Parsi born in British India, which is now Pakistan. Like the most of the modern poets, he too is not a simple one to be taken simply. If Jayanta Mahapatra is imagistic, Keki N.Daruwalla is landscapic and if the former focuses on Orissa, the latter on the Terai region of the U.P. Boat-ride along the Ganga is the first poem with which the collection Crossing of Rivers begins with. The poet describes what he has seen as an observer of incidents and landscapes. Curfew, disease, death, bloodshed, vengeance, revenge, toll, etc. are the terms of his poetry. If one seeks to hear good and ominous words, one may expect from him. He is not that type of poet who will entertain you. He is a poet of tragedy, accident and blood spilling and the morgue. The reasons for this maybe it that, first he is a police officer, secondly a Parsi poet. Maybe it that, he is Hardyian in his philosophy of life, as for his dabbling in tragedy, tragic flaw, persona, character and destiny, emotions purgatory and cathartic. There is also truth in the statement to know that he derives the materials of his poetry from Aristotle’s Poetics. Hubris, peripetia, catharsis, purgation, tragic flaw in character, destiny, etc. are the things of his poetic discussion. To call him sentimental is to rubbish it through. He is not the sentimental, but the most unsentimental poet. Disease, death, curfew, hatred, enmity, human anger, wrath, violence and bloodshed give poetic verve and vigour to his stanzas and he really derives from the subject-matter of his poetry.
Daruwalla as a poet is one of a very hard heart and there is nothing as that can weaken him or emotionally wet him, a writer so bold and daring. The words he uses are not easily understandable. His understanding of Hindu culture and philosophy too is full of bold references and he is observational and penetrating enough to cut the cultural ice and to break open. In the poem, Boat-ride along the Ganga, he decribes the Ganga ghats, his journeys into, the excursions of the pandas (priests) and the myths doing the rounds together with a depiction of the sailors by the boatside, the banks, the hearths burning and the corpses too burning side by side. Who can picture and photograph such a sight rather Daruwalla? He is a master artist of the landscapes and the canvas of it; a consummate craftsman whose dexterity lies it here. When one starts to read him, one feels baffled as for vocabulary, syntax and phraseology. His verbose and bombastic style is exploding and the readers dare not take him. A poet of the scarecrow, the vulture, the hawk, the kite and the eagle, he has a mythic space of his own, but instead of it, he draws and derives from and takes to his narration. Nightscape too is a Ganga ghat temple space which he views during the night-time and reflects over with his ruminations. The light, the mist and the fog and the river, he describes them in a style of his own. Outwardly, Daruwalla appears to be tough and hard, but from the inward of his is a very tender poet to be noticed and delineated in words.
To read him is to lay him bare with the help of a dictionary and looking up words in it. His poetic words, often drawn from disease and death, make for a study in contrast and comparison. Crossing of Rivers is but the confluence of the Ganga-Yamuna-Saraswati rivers.
Both of these poems from Crossing of Rivers tell a story of their own.
To evoke the landscapic imagery and to dwell upon is the job of the poet. The poem, Bell-Tower may be quoted in full to explain the things:
And one day the river fled from light
and sailboats and mallahs and death
fied from the river.
And as a woman, sheathed in wet clothes,
clanged the bell to summon the gods,
from the bell-tower
came neither chime nor vesper---
only a spray of rock-pigeons.
((Crossing of Rivers and The Keeper of the Dead, Oxford University
Press, Delhi, 1991, p.15)
A brimming river scene, busy and clamouring, full of din and bustle, engages the scape in many ways. But the poet here dreams of the riverside sans the mallahs, boatmen and sailboats. Just as a woman sheathed in wet clothes, clanging the bells to summon the gods, it appears to be.
We wonder to find it to our astonishment where he has got his poetic vocabulary. People talk about the plot-construction, but here his sentence-construction can be taken taken into consideration.
To read the Ganga-relating poems is to be remembered of Aldous Huxley’s essay Benares and others while on a visit to India. Even D.H.Lawrence refers to the Shiva-lingams of Benaras after hearing from his friends.
A robust description of a dawn, none but a healthy heart can give it:
Coincidence of forms along the waterfront
coincidence of silhouettes
in the spear-grass street,
water and sky and the farther bank
that scatter like debris.
turns to cyanosed mauve
dragging a half-severed leg
along the streets of dawn.
Dark olive mud, sandheads that bulge
like a herd of bison rising from their sleep.
Objects bristle with outline;
a silhouette lost in prayer
a frayed anchorite walks
like a fossil saint
who has crawed out
from the sediments of time.
There is a clang of cymbals
like brass beating against brass.
A conch-cry pierces the receding fog
like a shaft of light.
Gongs sound like hammered gold
and then a bald head
smeared with saffron
inching slowly above the distant reeds
dawns on the Ganga
like a bizarre illusion.
The northern Ganga ghats give a base to the thematic crux of his poetry, as for the scenes and sights observed, the bristle activity going on. The sadhus and sanyasins, the saffronites, the bald-headed priests and the mantric choruses engage the morning space and in the midst of it all, the sun radiating and breaking forth, glistening golden to light it up all. A scene of utter submission and prayer takes it all. The scene of the Suryanamaskar at dawnbreak after a bath, the prayer and worship in the temples and the chanting of the Gayaytri mantra take us by strike when we take to Daruwalla.
As a poet, Daruwalla is a tragedian in verse, falling short of a fatalist. Perhaps tragedy would have been the special paper of Keki N.Daruwalla in his M.A. As a student of English literature, he would have definitely studied the Greek and Shakespearean tragedies as these hang over as the impact upon his poetry. His bombastic imagery ruffles it all and he clings to it.
It is sometimes very difficult to explain and annotate the references and allusions of the poet under our scrutiny, discussion and perusal. Daruwalla uses the regional words in a plenty and these are very significant as for the comprehension and understanding of the poem. The post-mortem house and the morgue are the landscapes of his poetic observation. Daruwalla is not a simple poet, but a poet’s poet. Only a tourist, a visitor, a traveller, a navigator and a sailor can tell about his journeys undertaken.
The thud and cadence of his verbose and bombastic poetry is very heavy and the poetic air thick and solemn around. Some of the poetic qualities of Daruwalla can be noted in, as for example, the rural landscape the canvas of his poetry, the internal rhyme-scheme and dramatic monologue, the subjective recording of impressions through a tougher vocabulary, the hard exterior with a softening standpoint and so on.
The poet, though with nothing to show as fascination for the mother-tongue or the father-tongue, with nothing to attach to attach to the home notion and the sense of nativity, he instead of that suffers from the identity crisis a bit, but has naturalized himself quite a lot. Whatever be it his perception, one migrated and domiciled from Lahore or whose ancestors would have been from Iran, he involves the psychic space in quite an undertstandable term.
He sees the cholera patients being taken to hospitals from the villages on palanquins rather than the brides by the Kahars, the carrier-class people. The barrel of the gun speaks the language of firings made callously, as routine work or in defence of. Daruwalla’s heart not that of poet Valmiki feeling distressed at the bloody shooting and kill of one of the cronch birds in love-making and poetry came rushing to him as for the cruel falconer. His barrel is not of Mao, but of a police officer, of the rank of the superintendent or the deputy inspector genral. A RAW man, he has learnt from the whispers of suspense, sense of doubt, hatred avenging, revenge bruning the homes and violence brewing. The face is an index of mind is the thing which holds true in respect of Daruwalla and his understanding of human character and psychology.
Sometimes he does the poetry-talk, sometimes the tragedy-talk and as thus he keeps weaving the cocoon of poesy. A poet of landscapic scenes and sights, he takes to his narratology, cutting the mythic base of the land. In the poem, Gujarat 2002, the poet bewails the lot of Gujarat in the aftermath of the Godhara carnage and the resultant massacres. How did the situation take an ugly turn?
Daruwalla is down to realities and writes the poetry of earthly contact. The scent of the soil is the primary thing of his poetry. His uncommon, off the track words bring in its trail peculiar and strange imagery. The rented house full of reminiscences and memories too is not less than the own house. The word needs to be peeled off, not the halo or silence of it.
His poetry is a poetry of the curfew-clamped towns and cities, the curfew orders given to and the areas put under the scanner and surveillance and patrolled by strictly. All the doors and windows shut, people loving not on the roads, suspense and fear lurking within and the tongues clicking it not. A dumb silence prevails upon on and around the palce. Somewhere he learns from the map-makers as for to learn about cartography and mapping. The boundaries and fencings fail to restrict his vision as his mythic space is all-encompassing rather than being nativity-allegiance. To take Daruwalla into one’s own stride is to keep two things together with, first a dictionary as for to look up difficult and hard the words and the second, a map to locate the geography of the area under our discussion. His poetry is of the falcons and the falconers. As the things appear to be mesmerized with regard to Israel, Palestine and Iran, so are the things of his psychic space.
As he is a Zoroastrian, so he has definitely an ethos and a cultural legacy of his own and his consciousness will naturally be a part of that, moulding him differently.
Even under the tough rhetoric and stand of Daruwalla, there lies in a softer voice, full of inner spaces, internal action and feeling within. The tone may appear satiric, sarcastic and sardonic, but the standpoint is clear-cut, he is a poet of landscapes, boundariless, unwalled cities and towns, without the fences.
Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thy eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
----William Blake in Tiger
My sincere thanks as well as credit must go to the editors of Boloji, Rajender Krishan and Aparna Chatterjee as they have saved my papers from oblivion and I too have unearthed them. It also goes to the readers like you who have spoken their minds so clearly. My papers on Indian English poetry are lying unpublished since 1994 which I collected and presented to be submitted as for the D.Litt. degree, but the professors did too much of dirty politics and leg pulling and I stumbled and feel down . Even the smaller editors got papers written on them, but they never highlighted my articles and poems. As thus I lost my original paper on Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala. When O.P.Bhatnagar had been alive, I had sent to him a paper on his poetry which he asked to get it published in a journal, but too much favouritism and nepotism and stopping to conquer could not suit my mentality and I dumped my papers to be gnawed by rats, wet by rain waters and eaten by white ants.
Many research students as well as fellows like to visit Jayanta and Dauwalla under the pretext of some goodwill meeting for courtesy of learning sake, but interview them the cleverly ones and in the end humble them as for having a photograph or their say about their own private poetry. Such a thing I have never done in life. My locally-published books, How Far Indian Is Indian English Poetry? (2001), Critical Perspective on Indian English Poetry (2002) and Interviews With Some Indian English Poets (2002), many of my friends use them, but quote them not in their future write-ups.
Keki N.Daruwalla, if to see him otherwise, he is our Robert Browning and Ted Hughes, but without Sylvia Plath, one who draws imagery from violence and tragedy, disease, death and doom and to go through his poetry is to come to see it that the Creation is a composition of both the elements which Blake speaks of in his Songs of Innocence and Ignorance. Blake’s tiger, not lamb, is the poetic persona of Daruwalla; Hughes’ hawk circling over the wide scapes. To read him and comprehend him is to understand the nature and purpose of Greek tragedies; the poetry of Blake, Hopkins, Browning and Hughes in contrast. A poet of psychological probe, sociological contrast and tragic vision, he is a poet of landscapes.
He is a poet of curfew, curfew orders being given and implemented, as for the areas under disturbance, unrest and turmoil, shoot at sight prohibitory orders implied around; he is a poet of tragedy and this tragic living of ours. To know him in full is to go through a book of literary terms and picking more terms, more specially the terminology relating to tragedy literary type.
And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp?
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
----Blake in Tiger
Bijay Kant dubey
extremely delighted to read your article on the man and poet daruwalla
he loves poetry and respects all poets
i saw, spoke and sat with him many a time
go on writing
i'm glad we have found an outlet
god be with us as always