Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla was born in Lahore in January, 1937. After taking his master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University he joined the Indian Police Service. His first book of poems Under Orion was published in 1970 and his Apparition in April published in 1971 won the Uttar Pradesh State Award in 1972.
His third book Crossing of Rivers was published by the Oxford University Press in 1976. His poems figure in a number of anthologies and he has himself edited an anthology of modern Indian poetry under the title Two Decades of Indian Poetry in English — 1960 – 1980. He won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984.
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Daruwalla is known for his bitter, satiric tone and as one who writes from his experience of violence, (of the brutal nature of man encountered in the police department), he shows a preoccupation with some of the darker sides of existence particularly with death and destruction. Daruwalla is one who believes, like many other poets writing in recent years, that poetry should derive its inner strength from a social awareness and sense of commitment.
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While his early poems, especially those written from his experience as a police officer, show an acuteness of observation and sharpness of expression, the later poems show an intensification of social awareness, of a deep consciousness of the environment in which a poem is set. But the real significance and power of his poetry “emerge from the interaction between his subjective responses and the larger context that includes both myth and actuality.” (Hari Mohan Prasad and Ñ P Singh).
His third book, Crossing of Rivets comprises poems in which the central metaphor is the Ganges. The river comes alive in the poems not only as a physical reality symbolising nature in tooth and claw but also as a mythical and spiritual presence with several primal, religious and emotive connotations. The present selection, “Boat-ride along the Ganga” is the first poem in this book.
The Indianness of Daruwalla’s poetry derives not so much from his portrayal of Indian life as he has seen and experienced as a police officer on duty nor from a conscious effort to make his writing Indian but from the rural Indian landscape which has inspired it. According to the poet’s own admission his poems are rooted in the rural landscape and his poetry is earthy which means that he has avoided that sophistication which “while adding gloss, takes away from the power of verse”.
Also, the strength of his poetry derives equally from his use of symbols, images and metaphors as also from a craftsmanship which is said to be creative and flexible and not mechanical. The poems in Under Orion show, in the words of Nissim Ezekiel, “ a fine blend of freedom and discipline, metrical rhythms and the word order of prose, compact, harsh alliterative phrasing and relaxed movement”. This description is true of almost all his other poems.