Keki Daruwalla

Rating: 4.33
Rating: 4.33

Keki Daruwalla Poems

Migrations are always difficult:
ask any drought,
any plague;
ask the year 1947.


half silhouette and half myth
the wolf circles my past

Corn is great, on the cob or otherwise,
but before corn in the ear there was life.


The sea came in with her and her curved snout
and her tin coloured barnacles
and long threaded rose moles
patterned on her body.

The hive slept like Argus
its thousand eyes covered with bees.

Long and lonely are my nights.
Come help me Goddess, end my blight;
her absence burns me, burns my sides
with love intense.

Perhaps I'll wake up on some alien shore
In the shimmer of an aluminium dawn,

I am alone in the house.
It is warm
but I feel cold.
The doors swing open across the years.


If you want
a cage, my dear
you do not have
to travel far.

They are naïve, those who suggest
that the fortunes of the ruler
and the ruled go hand in hand.
Take the plague of 1350,

All it takes to blight a language
is another sun. It's not burn
that does it, or chill, or the way

Tall buildings impress me
the ones which cut off half the sky.
I like tall stories, even though false;
not the half-truth sleeping with the half-lie.

He was a little tentative
when it came to the East.
Its ways were quite insidious
and odd to say the least.

The wind is cold and the wind burns.
The wind is cold and the wind is acid.
On the Bar counter ice and amber swirl
in thick gleaming glasses;

The wind is cold and the wind burns.
The wind is cold and the wind is acid.
On the Bar counter ice and amber swirl
in thick gleaming glasses;
in the Bar the ash of small talk,
the smoke of ruminations.
Light purrs on a bare shoulder,
her feet are hidden
in the drooping hem of her sari;
ice and amber swirling
I sit here between betweens,
to the left of voices
to the right of memory.
Thought floats into
the slow silence of air currents;
the hours squat with me
as I snap connections
in autumn leaf detachment.


Nowhere to say this
no one to say this to
except to the typewriter
(the computer would store it
in its chip-memory
and that could be embarrassing)
as she pulled out
he turned into a dead crab beach
when the sea pulls out


Were the sea to pull out
sea birds would pull out
and the breeze;
shells would turn brittle
under crackling boot;
fish and fishermen
would be sucked into the great ebb
and our traders
would turn the white sea bed
into "The Salt Crystal
Shopping Arcade",
selling grounded oil tankers,
ocean liners dredged out of the mud
and whales flaked in salt.
You could buy goldfish though
as they circle the belly of a water jar.


You didn't come with me
to the mountains this time,
but as you know
when you climb mountains
the stars get nearer;
don't ask me why this happens
or how this happens
but it happens -
when constellations smile
death drops your catch.
but often the stars
go about their office routine
in the night sky
like glum bureaucrats -
this astral bureaucracy
is even more baffling in its ways
than our central ministries.
In auto mode Rahu gets into the act;
So does the moon debris that swirls
around Saturn and forms its rings.
Then what has to happen, happens.
That's what happened to you.


The almond tree flowers white;
beside it the peach flowers, as only peach can
with its own interpretation of pink;
and further in the lofty rear,
winter has left its brown imprint
on mountain and crag.
Perhaps with the rains
green may return to the slopes,
a little moss here, a little grass there;
you never know though,
the rains may never come
or life may run out before the rains -
the almond blossom, each petal soft as an eyelid,
will also not see the rain.
They are divided by a scimitar:
parched landscapes and rain,
parched lips and love.


Watching the wind-ruffled
down on bird-breast
I think for no particular reason
of wind through quivering paddy
in the Nepal terai.


I think I am at peace now,
he said, for my dreams
move like the thinnest
veil of mist over water.
Awareness of absences,
of what is right with me
or wrong with me is also like
the perception of a veil of mist
over a perception of water.

My troubles start
when I think of hope,
that thin smoke of mist
over the iron-grey waters of dawn,
icy waters, he said.

But you are with me
like a spring of
underground water
like the murmur of a spring
of underground water.

I didn't for the life of me know
whether he was addressing poetry
(he had lost his touch lately)
or his beloved.

Forty years with you
and I am a better man,
he said, awash
in forty years of cleansing waters
and forty years of light.
The trouble was
She couldn't hear him.

Long and lonely are my nights.
Come help me Goddess, end my blight;
her absence burns me, burns my sides
with love intense.

Aphrodite, hail or sleet,
I implore you to come down from Crete;
my altar smokes, awaits your feet,
with frankincense.

Your love-demented Sappho pleads:
Give me no manna and no mead.
It's love, not wine that Sappho needs
you understand.

I haven't had a word from her!
Once again make her my lover
in bed and bower her breasts should flower,
in my hands.

Her star-erasing beauty's spell,
turns me feverish, frail, unwell.
Her presence is both bliss and hell -
I tremble so.

Her absence scars my empty flank.
Goddess you don't need my verse
to tell you this. My love is frank,
I can't dissemble so.

Bring back Gongyla to my side!
May she once more become my bride!
May she, her lyre and her fire
beside me purr.

Come foam-born and Cyprus-born,
Goddess of love and the lovelorn,
my altar awaits you with fire-urn,
incense and myrrh.

(After Cavafy)

[We behave like] the Poseidonians in the Tyrrhenian
Gulf, who although of Greek origin, became barbarized
as Tyrrhenians or Romans and changed their speech
and the customs of their ancestors. But they observe
one Greek festival even to this day; during this they
gather together and call up from memory their ancient
names and customs, and then lamenting loudly to
each other and weeping , they go away.
Athenios, Deipnosophistai, Book 14, 31A [632]

All it takes to blight a language
is another sun. It's not burn
that does it, or chill, or the way
woods straggle down the hills, or seas
curl along the shingled coast.
It is the women, cowering
in fear, whom the soldiers,
as they clamber down the boats,
first reassure and then marry.

They are faithful, good with grain,
at baking bread and fermenting wine
and unscrambling the fish shoals from the meshes.
They get the goddesses wrong sometimes [but so what?]
Confusing mother with daughter.
And there are minor errors
In ritual and sacrifice,
In lustration oils and libations.

A few seasons teach the man
that his woman's omen birds are always right;
her fears travel down the bloodstream
and a new language emerges from the placenta.

What does one do with a thought
that embarks on one script and lands on another?
A hundred years go by, perhaps two hundred,
Living with the Tyrrhenians and the Etruscans,
and they discover there is more to language
than merely words, that every act
from making wine to making love
filters through a different prism of sound,
and they have forgotten the land they set sail from
and the syllables that seeded that land.

What do they do, except once a year
At a lyre-and-lute festival,
Greek to the core, with dance and contests,
grope for memories in the blood,
like Demeter, torch in hand,
looking for her netherworld daughter?
And weep a little for the Greece they have lost
and reflect on the gulf of years which has proved
wider than the Tyrrhenian gulf,
and the hiatus between languages,
wider than the Aegean ?
What can they do, but weep for Agora
and Acropolis, forever left behind;
and reflect, how three centuries distant
from the Ionian coast,
they have been barbarized by Rome?

(On revisiting a dream)

I am alone in the house.
It is warm
but I feel cold.
The doors swing open across the years.
For someone who has no ancestral home,
who doesn't have
the long shadow of the past
to ruffle his hair,
homecoming gets distorted.
Time squints, space wobbles
and the visit, encoded as it is,
remains undeciphered.


It is cold,
the windows are frost-smudged.
Counsel yourself, there's no one
else to do it.
Let hieroglyphs
remain dented where they are.
Let wind erode them, or time -
they are warp and weft of all erosion.
Come out of the house and write
(not hieroglyphs this time!)
It is cold.
Frost has smudged the windows.
Your hair is grey as hoarfrost.


A rundown house,
is a desolation.
A rundown house
perched on a live memory,
with me alone conversing with both
is a double desolation.
Twenty years ago when I took a look around
It wasn't there.
Someone now tells me at a reunion
the house is standing,
only new streets
interlock around it.
It's still there! That's nice,
one desolation gets sloughed off


It's only when reality slips by
like a sliding panel
that you realize
that the marvellous in the everyday real
has passed you by.


Seated on the hull of your boat
you lurch and tilt.
The horizon is the forest,
darkening leaf on darkening sky.

Slot your time properly
in the right caves.
The sea is the present
The forest is the future.

Speech is present tense
Echo is the future.

If you are talking of echoes
you are talking of walls.
If you talk of water echo
you are discussing womb walls -
odd territory,
come out of it.
Unsure on land
you take to the sea.
The skyline is a forest
Fern-dark, shadow-dark
graveled with white coral grit.


Whatever evil he suffered, he forgot
said Milosz in one of his poems.
Now that's a scrap of myth, isn't it?
And it is one thing to forgive
and another to forget.
I tried to put things behind me,
in the backyards of memory-clutter,
and went back to my flirtations with altitudes,
touched the Karakorams at Siachen,
touched - Hindi has such a lovely word for it, ‘sparsh' -
Nubra, the garden of the North
and slept in a tent at Tsomoriri -
the rocks brown, the lake blue;
I got hold of a scrap of a myth here
(at 15000 feet it's a good scrap to grab).
It was very hot, and a woman called Tsomo
riding a yak couldn't rein him in,
as the yak made straight for the lake.
She kept shouting ‘riri, riri', ‘stop, stop' in Tibetan,
but the yak went in and they both drowned.


The stars have flung
their net into the sea
Among the thrashing fish shoal
and the lassoed crab
look for me.

They are naïve, those who suggest
that the fortunes of the ruler
and the ruled go hand in hand.
Take the plague of 1350,
which traveled like a caravan
from China across the Pamirs
to the caravanserai called Egypt;
rested here, refilled its water-skins
and moved on to Europe.
Twenty thousand died each day in Cairo,
Mamluk, Emir and fellahin.
But while the people sprouted buboes
and the cattle broke out in blains
and the Nile was scaled with
dead shoals of silver-bellied fish,
the Sultan got richer.
When everyone dies
who succeeds to property
but the Sultan who embodies the state?
Jazziya was another money spinner
And the plague must have spared
The non-Muslim - it often does.
Can we blame the State Treasurer
If, as he prayed, he asked Allah
for more plagues and more unbelievers?

He was a little tentative
when it came to the East.
Its ways were quite insidious
and odd to say the least.

His experience was unhappy:
His first stop had been Cairo
where he had gone to drop his card
and call on the Pharoah.

They laid a banquet for him
At the Casino Mariot
and placed by Pope Shenodah
who but Judas Iscariot!

The Turks would be more organized
he fondly hoped - and damn!
He couldn't cross the Hellespont.
There was a traffic jam.

He raged and ranted fiercely
"I must have been a fool
to try and venture into
intestinal Istanbul.

When do we get to Asia?"
Great Alexander probed.
"When Effendi comes to Turkia
He comes from Europe to Europe.

You can check with CNN
Or ask the BBC.
When you come to Turkey
You come to EEC."

He remembered Aristotle:
"Son, at the Turkish Rail
ask for the Occident Express
The Occidental Mail."

As he checked into a hotel
- the Turks call it Oteli -
he found Thais lodged in Hilton
while he was in Surmeli.

What really turned his eyes into
two glowing bits of phosphorous
was that his friend Hephaestion
checked into Hotel Bosphorous.

His face turned dark and sullen
as a cloud's before a storm.
And though they humoured him he screamed
"I want Hephaestion!"

They offered handsome eunuchs,
whores from the Golden Horn.
But Alexander kept on saying
"I want Hephaestion".

Thias phoned "I am bored at Hilton,
And I am quite akeli."
But he said what can I do
for I am at Surmeli!"

And Mehmet Ali Pasha,
a little high on raaki
asked poor Alexander
if he was an Iraqi?

Then in the hotel dining room
dressed in salwar-kameez,
a man accosted him and said
"could I have your good name please?

Arrey Janab Sikandar Sahab!
Myself Assad Durrani.
Oh what a treat it is to meet
a fellow Pakistani."

Alexander answered darkly
"Thanks very much Janab.
Tell Porus inshah Allah
We'll be meeting in Punjab."

He drove the Persians backwards
right up to Tarbela.
He beat them up at Granicus.
He thrashed them at Arbela.

While he uncorkd the champagne
and lit the fireworks,
who should speak but Spoil Sport
Parmenio, the jerk.
"Sire, though you thrashed the Persians,
you never touched a Turk."

Keki Daruwalla Biography

Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla was born in 1937 in Lahore in undivided India. In 1945 his father Prof. N.C. Daruwalla retired from Govt. College Lyallpur (now Shah Faizlabad) and moved to Junagadh as Tutor and Guardian to the Prince. His latest novel Ancestral Affairs (Harpercollins, 2015) dwells on Junagadh’s disastrous accession to Pakistan in 1947. From Junagadh the family moved to Rampur in UP in 1948, where he first studied in Baqar School and later Raza Inter college. His early education, mostly in sub –standard institutions, was pretty chaotic, especially because the language of instruction kept changing, the last two being Urdu and then Hindi. From 1952 -58 he studied in Government College Ludhiana. He attended a coaching camp run by Lala Amarnath and captained his College Cricket XI. He picked up his love for English literature and cricket from his father. Daruwalla joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1958. He had two stints in anti dacoity operations in UP and also served in the SSB on the Indi Tibet border for three years 1963-66, where he trekked up to heights of 18,880 feet while crossint the Chorhoti Pass. He joined the Cabinet Secretariat and left R&AW as Special Secretary when he was promoted as Secretary and Chairman JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee) in 1993. He retired in 1995. After retirement he rode through the entire Himalayas ( including Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim) in 2003. He served as Member National Commission for Minorities (2011-2014) where he visited and enquired into practically every major communal riot. He was awarded the Padma Shri for his writing in 2014. He returned his Sahitya Academy Award in 2015 as a protest against its reluctance to take up the cause of rationalist writers murdered by right wing diehards, and also against intolerance of fringe elements belonging to so called ‘cultural’ factions. He was Special Assistant to the Prime Minister in 1979. Daruwalla was a Colombo Plan scholar at Oxford 1980-81 where he worked on Politics in South Asia. He was also a member of the Commonwealth Observers Group for the Zimbabwe Elections in 1980.)

The Best Poem Of Keki Daruwalla


Migrations are always difficult:
ask any drought,
any plague;
ask the year 1947.
Ask the chronicles themselves:
if there had been no migrations
would there have been enough
history to munch on?

Going back in time is also tough.
Ask anyone back-trekking to Sargodha
or Jhelum or Mianwali and they'll tell you.
New faces among old brick;
politeness, sentiment,
dripping from the lips of strangers.
This is still your house, Sir.

And if you meditate on time
that is no longer time -
(the past is frozen, it is stone,
that which doesn't move
and pulsate is not time) -
if you meditate on that scrap of time,
the mood turns pensive
like the monsoons
gathering in the skies
but not breaking.

Mother used to ask, don't you remember my mother?
You'd be in the kitchen all the time
and run with the fries she ladled out,
still sizzling on the plate.
Don't you remember her at all?
Mother's fallen face
would fall further
at my impassivity.
Now my dreams ask me
If I remember my mother
And I am not sure how I'll handle that.
Migrating across years is also difficult.

[From: The Map-maker]

Keki Daruwalla Comments

Bijay Kant Dubey 13 May 2014

Keki N.Daruwalla even in his definition of poetry makes it clear how he has taken poetry along, into the stride and thud of his, never to be taken over by sentimentality and loose overflow of emotions. He is what that forms a base of the chunk of his poetry, making poetry closer to observation and landscapic presentations. Disease, death, epidemics and the morgue, the post-mortem house, autopsy and stench with the kites, hawks and vultures hovering over are the things of his poetry and he keeps himself abreast of all that going. But we are very sorry to say that the number of the birds has fallen very miserable and they are scarcely to be sighted over. The Cheel Ghars too lie in short of the birds of prey dwelling inside or perched on its walls, almost abandoned and without the visits and flutter of the birds. Dead bodies, accidents and tragedies speak in his poetry and the shells of his make a mockery of the people peeping through the curfew-clamped towns and its barren streets. He is not a simple man to take poetry simply, but a lover of bombastic words and shells, weighty, laden and carrying in. The poem, Wolf from The Glass-Blower: Selected Poems may be quoted and cited in to dwell upon and delve deep into the psyche and space of his own. Daruwalla as a poet is of a hunter’s penetration, telling of the duality, ever present in this creation, the contraries and contradictions which G.M.Hopkins comes to mark it in the poem ‘Pied Beauty’. Fears lurking within human mind, gripping and grasping, striking by surprise, the unthought-of and the thought swapping positions continue to allure and strike us. Wolf, a run-on poem of one stanza, has the verve and dark imagery of its own. The tiger, tiger, Blakian tiger vision, the villagers calling aloud, Hopkins’ creation contradictory and conflicting, Shaw’s anti-thesis, Hughes’ animal imagery, Corbett’s man-eaters, Orwell’s animal farm and the shooting of the elephant, Shelley’s description of the creator, preserver and destroyer in the message and thunder of the cloud, Eliot’s depiction of the waste and barren land standing in unison with man for a vegetation and the rains and son on take over the consciousness of the poet. Though Kipling talks of the friendship of Moglie and Bagheera, but the Jungle Book is a jungle book. Nature red in tooth and claw will always evade, is the Tennysonialn truth. Wordsworth too feels the same when he describes Lucy taken over a whirlwind. The laugh and thunder of the passing clouds with the bolts from the blue in The Cloud, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara with the shantih, sahntih, shantih of the waste land of Eliot and the penance of Sagar’s sons, are the things of reckoning. Nature being varying and fickle is also there in Wordsworth’s untitled poem, but read as The Education of Nature and wild, swift and proud as Shelley says it to the wild west wind, fluttering and passing by strongly, by lifting it all overhead too sometimes.

22 10 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 13 August 2013

There is nothing as that to say with regard to this modern Indian English poet who has come a long to reach the pedestal of glory, but as Jaynata Mahapatra has reminisced about in his Door of Paper, a collection of memoirs, sketches and reflections, reviews, lectures and speeches, annotations and explanations gathered in, there should be something on his part to clarify his point of delving. An autobiography will be very helpful in understanding his mind and feeling. Bijay Kant Dubey

23 8 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 13 August 2013

There is nothing as that to say with regard to his presence into the domain of modern Indian English poetry. Daruwalla has definitely come a long way to reach the pedestal of glory, but there should be something like that of Jaynat Mahapatra's Door of Paper, a colection of sketches, reflections and memoirs, reviews, opinions, sppeches and lectures and some clarifications on his part which the poet has reminisced about and these we too seek for from Daruwalla. Had he an autobiography, it would have aded to our critical verve. Bijay Kant Dubey

20 7 Reply
Gobinda Sahoo 21 October 2015

One of my favorite poets and one who has influenced me in expressing images.

11 5 Reply
LALA LALA 26 November 2017


1 11 Reply
Krishnendu Biswas 29 September 2021

Kindly upload the poem 'Razia the tigress'.

1 0 Reply
Awadhesh Kumar 24 June 2021

Please make the poem 'Rumination' by K. N. Daruwalla available

0 0 Reply
Rãkshit 29 September 2020

Razia the Tigress

2 0 Reply
7-76RJ-P6RE5DCGHNJKML 05 May 2020


1 0 Reply
Ayukta 15 March 2020

Please send the poem Boat ride along the Ganga by Daruwalla

1 0 Reply

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