Evaluating Keki N. Daruwalla’s Poetry: the poet who sees a very different India

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Critical analysis Keki N Daruwalla poetry poems Indian themes read by critics

Evaluating poets is never an easy task! You must read these poets well and repeatedly to ensure nothing leaves your attention’s periphery. Novels, mostly, have singular interpretations. On the other hand, poetry can leave you stunned and awe-struck with the manifolds of secrets uncovering themselves one by one. Well, we cannot accept defeat as critics and leave poets untouched! We have to try and keep trying. In this article, therefore, I am trying to evaluate the poetry of Keki N. Daruwalla. This will be a brief article, let me tell you. So, here we go. Let’s begin with an introduction to the poet.

Keki N. Daruwalla is a prominent Indian poet and short story writer widely regarded for his significant contributions to contemporary Indian English literature. Born in Lahore in 1937, Daruwalla’s work is celebrated for its vivid imagery, rich cultural references, and profound engagement with socio-political issues. His professional background as a police officer and extensive travel experiences have profoundly influenced his literary output, imbuing his poetry with a unique perspective on human nature and society.

Important Publications:

Daruwalla’s body of work is extensive, with numerous poetry collections that have garnered critical acclaim. Some of his important publications include:

“Under Orion” (1970) is his debut collection, which established him as a formidable voice in Indian poetry.
“Apparition in April” (1971) Further cemented his reputation, featuring a blend of personal and universal themes.
“Crossing of Rivers” (1976): This collection won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984, one of India’s highest literary honours.
“The Keeper of the Dead” (1982): Explores themes of death, decay, and spiritual desolation.
“Landscapes” (1987): Known for its evocative depictions of nature and human landscapes.
“Night River” (2000): A collection that delves into the complexities of human relationships and existential musings.
“Collected Poems 1970-2005” (2006): An anthology that provides a comprehensive view of his poetic evolution.

The Main Themes in the Poetry of Daruwalla:

Daruwalla’s poetry is characterised by themes, reflecting his deep engagement with the human condition and the natural world. Some of the predominant themes include:

Nature and Landscape: Daruwalla often draws on the natural environment to explore broader existential questions. His poems frequently depict rivers, forests, and mountains, highlighting their beauty and indifference to human suffering.
Death and Mortality: A recurrent theme in his work, Daruwalla confronts the inevitability of death and the transient nature of life, often with a stoic acceptance.
Social and Political Commentary: His poetry addresses violence, displacement, and communal tensions, reflecting his background in law enforcement and his acute awareness of social injustices.
Spiritual Desolation and Redemption: Many of his poems explore the human search for meaning and the struggle to find redemption amidst spiritual desolation.

Lyric, Narrative Style, and Rhythmic Patterns in Daruwalla’s Poetry:

Daruwalla’s poetry is notable for its fusion of lyrical and narrative elements. His lyrical poems are marked by vivid imagery and emotional intensity, often invoking a sense of wonder or melancholy. In contrast, his narrative poems are rich in storytelling, bringing to life various characters and scenarios with a keen eye for detail and a deep empathy for his subjects.

The rhythmic patterns in Daruwalla’s poetry are varied and intricate. He employs a range of meters and forms, from traditional structures to free verse, allowing him to adapt his style to the demands of his subject matter. This versatility in rhythm and form enhances his work’s emotional and thematic impact, making his poetry both engaging and thought-provoking.

Shortcomings in the Poetry of Daruwalla:

While Daruwalla’s poetry is widely praised, some critics have pointed out particular shortcomings. One criticism is that his work can sometimes be overly dense and allusive, potentially alienating readers who are not familiar with the cultural and historical references he employs. Additionally, his focus on dark and sombre themes might be perceived as limiting the emotional range of his poetry. Some readers might find his style too formal or detached, lacking the immediacy and rawness that characterises some of his contemporaries.


Keki N. Daruwalla is a significant figure in Indian English poetry, distinguished by his profound engagement with themes of nature, mortality, and social justice. His ability to blend lyrical beauty with narrative depth, combined with his mastery of varied rhythmic patterns, makes his poetry compelling and thought-provoking. Despite some criticisms regarding the accessibility and emotional range of his work, Daruwalla’s contributions to literature continue to resonate, offering valuable insights into the human condition and the world around us.


by Amit for ReadByCritics

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