Keki N Daruwalla Biography as A Poet, Story Writer & ex- Govt. Servant

Updated July 1, 2022

Padma Shri Keki N Daruwalla, an ex- IPS, a poet & story writer, has great contributions to the literary space of Indian English. A multi talent, Keki widened the scope of Indian English poetry and enriched it in a variety of ways.

Literary Canvas of Daruwalla transcends the national boundary as you could see a confluence of sights and sounds of England, Yugoslavia, Helsinki, Stockholm, Volgograd, and Moscow in his works. Keki Daruwala in his of pursuit of poetry readings  has visited many foreign lands. His poetry derives strength equally from his use of symbols, images and metaphors as also from a craftsmanship which is intensely creative & flexible rather mechanical.

Poetic works of K N Daruwalla include “Under Orion”, “Apparition in April”, “Crossing of Rivers”, “The Keeper of the Reed” and “Landscape”. In recognition of his poetic talent, he was awarded the “Sahitya Academy Award” in 1984 and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia in 1987. Keki Daruwalla is also recipient of Padma Shri in 2014, the fourth highest civilian award in India.

Life & Education of Keki N Daruwalla

Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla was born in Lahore in January 24, 1937. His father, N.C. Daruwalla was professor in Government College Lahore. It is interesting to note that he was born in undivided India. Unfortunately, before the partition of India, his family left undivided India in 1945 and moved to Junagarh. He then came back to India in Rampur. So, he happen to encounter and learned many languages as he grew up studying in different schools and in various languages.

Keki completed his masters in English Literature from Punjab University. While pursuing his craft of writing, he kept on serving the Indian police Service industriously. Later, he became Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on the International affairs. Subsequently, he was in the cabinet secretariat until his retirement.

Controversies With Keki N Daruwalla

In October, 2015, Keki Daruwalla returned the Sahitya Akademy Award. Basically, it was a token of protest against physical violence against authors. He also contended that Sahitya Akademi as an organization remained silent over the issue of violence. Daruwala never accepted back the award even after the Akademy condemned the attacks at a later stage.

Poems of Keki N Daruwalla

While he was serving in the Indian Police service, he learnt the writing craft. Moreover, his work as a police officer provided him various opportunities to encounter the harsh realities of the world, which became the substance of his poetry. His first book of poetry was “Under Orion”, which was published in 1970 and his “Apparition in April” published in 1971 for which he was given the Uttar Pradesh State Award in 1972. Subsequently, his third book of poetry “Crossing of Rivers” was published by the Oxford University Press in 1976. His po­ems appeared in many poetry anthologies. Even, he has himself edited an anthology of modern Indian poetry under the title “Two Decades of Indian Poetry” in English — 1960 – 1980. He was awarded Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984.

His third book of poetry, “Crossing of River” comprises poems in which the central metaphor is the Ganges. The river comes alive in the poems not only as a physical reality symbolizing nature in tooth and claw but also as a mythical and spiritual presence with several primal, religious and emotive connotations. “Boat-ride along the Ganga” is the first poem in this book. Many other eloquent books of poetry are such as “The Keeper of the Dead” “A Summer of Tigers”, “ The Map-maker” etc.

Acclaimed Literary Works by Keki N Daruwalla

Writing by Keki is not limited to one genre of literature. It instead, runs across the verticals of literary space. Be it poem, story, novel or verse, Keki Daruwalla has proved himself in every field. Lets have a look:

Poetry Volumes >> [Buy From HERE!]

  • Under Orion’ (1970),
  • Apparition in April’ (1971),
  • Crossing of Rivers’ (1976),
  • Winter Poems, 1980
  • Landscape, 1986
  • A summer of tigers, 1995
  • Night river, 2000
  • The Map-maker, 2002
  • The Scarecrow and the Ghost, 2004
  • Collected Poems (1970–2005), 2006

Book of Verse

The Keeper of the Dead (1982): For this work Daruwalla got Central Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984.

Collection Of Short Stories

  • Sword & abyss (1979)
  • The Minister for Permanent unrest & other stories (1996)
  • A House in Ranikhet (2003)


  • For Pepper and Christ- A Novel, (2010): It is a historical novel based on Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India for the spice trade. The plot builds on a historical canvas, woven around events during the end of the 15th century and the 16th century.
  • Swerving to Solitude: Letters to Mama (2018): This story builds on dissenting voice of Seema (married to someone in PMO) during the Emergency, which leads to marital discord in her own life and unexpectedly beginning of her mother’s private history – mama’s feelings for MN Roy.

Poem of Fame

In Morning Dew: “In Morning Dew” is a poem from “The Scarecrow and the Ghost”, K N Daruwalla’s own book. This poem gives a world view through the eyes of a scarecrow. Personification of scarecrow exemplifies as to how man at large sees everything happening around it but hesitates questioning about.

Salient Features of Keki N Daruwalla Writings

Writings of Keki N Daruwalla is marked by his bitter and satiric tone loaded with his own experience of violence, in particular the brutal nature of Police encounters. Daruwalla ably unravels the darker sides of existence involving death and destruction. How the Social awareness and  irony inspires poetry, Keki has very well showcased all this through his works.

Daruwalla writes, “Writing a poem is like a clot going out of the blood”. To him, poetry is personal or exploratory. At times, it is therapeutic and an aid in coming to terms with one’s own interior world. He believes that the purpose of his poetry is cathartic.

1. Portrays the Contemporary Indian Socio-Political World

Daruwalla stands out among Indian English poets for bringing to poetry a range of experience generally outside the ambit of poets. His experience as a police officer has clearly helped him in this respect. He portrays vividly and minutely the contemporary Indian socio-political world with touches of irony and sarcasm. Nevertheless, he exposes the evils of communal tension, riots, exploitation, grief, criminalization of politics, dowry etc. He also deals with the theme of disintegration of village community in migration. Profiteers and hoarders are the targets of Daruwalla:

“No end so hoarding
Breaking open the lockers they find
A briefcase full of rice”.

2. Descriptions of Love and Sex by Keki

Love and sex occupy permanent place in Daruwalla’s poetry. He has recollected his early marital experiences in “The unrest of Desires”. When husband and wife get time and privacy, they enjoy sexual union which is graphically described in the following lines:

“As if in reply
She presses me harder to herself
I enter her
The way a boat starved of fresh water
Enters a harbour”.

Keki’s conception of love is neither philosophical nor spiritual. To him, sex is essential for happy married life.

3. Portrayals of Indian Landscape

Daruwalla’s poetry is notable for the vivid and picturesque portrayal of the landscape of North India. Its rivers, hills, plains and pastures are beautifully depicted. “The Gaghra in Spate” paints the terrible aspects of riverscape. “Crossing of the Rivers” also contains some remarkable word pictures of nightscape, riverscape, mudscape, etc.

4. Use of Legends and Myths by Keki

Another notable aspect of Daruwalla’s poetry is the use of legends and myths drawn from remote antiquity. He freely uses words which are indicative of rituals and religious aspects of Hindus, Muslims and Parsis. His poetry, thus, surpassed with the varied aspects of Indian sensibility and represents the composite religious culture of secular India.

5. Daruwalla is a True Craftsman

Daruwalla is a gifted poetic artist. He has cultivated in himself a unique art of capturing the attention of the modern intellectual. When he exposes social and political evils of modern existence a colloquial and ironical hue in his style is prominently seen. Additionally, K. N. uses highly eloquent, suggestive and picturesque expression when the occasions demanded. Imagery that he puts in are tense, tank, suggestive and terse which reflect his wide experiences. The craft of his images convey the feelings of violence, death, decay and destruction. Let’s see an example of one of his poetic works:

“Slowly the ghat amphitheatre unfolds
Like a diseased nocturnal flower
In a dream
That opens its petals only at dusk.

Concluding Words on Keki N Daruwalla & His Works

Unquestionably, Daruwalla is a leading literary figure in modern Indian English poetry. Although, Poetry Critics opine that his broader landscape imagery is a result of his long career as a Govt. official. But, in true sense is a versatile genius. Keki’s literary might can be understood from Nissim Ezekiel remarks as “Daruwalla has the energy of the lion”.

Literary works of Keki are so realistic that they have found due place in mainstream applications. Refugee film by J. P. Dutta is believed to be inspired by “Love Across the Salt Desert” a story by Keki Daruwalla. The thematic canvas of the story is based around the Great Rann of Kutch. Also, the story makes part of the Std. XII syllabus English textbook, NCERT.

Questions Mostly Asked about Keki N Daruwalla: FAQ

Q. Which Kind of Poetry Keki N Daruwalla Wrote?

Ans: Daruwalla’s poetry outstand with ironic stance, contradictory life realities, diverse cultural, historic and mythic landscapes, terse & tensile edge, blend of rigid and free verse. As a true craftsman and a gifted poet, Daruwalla is able to seize the imagination of modern intellectuals. He is gifted with the ability to combine an epic canvas with a miniaturist’s eye. Keki works infuse a colloquial and ironical hue while exposing social & political evils at the same time.

Q. What was the Basic Profession of KN Daruwalla Other than a Poet?

Ans: Keki N Daruwalla has been an IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh Cadre. Daruwalla joined the Indian Police service on 24th October 1958. He learned many things from his service and vividly put them all into his poetry and other literary works.

Q. When was KN Daruwalla Born?

Ans: Keki N Daruwalla was born on 24th January 1937, in  Lahore, Pakistan, the erstwhile undivided India.

Q. What is Full Name of K. N. Daruwalla?

Ans: Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla is full name of K. N. Daruwalla. Nasserwanji C. Daruwalla was his father, who had been a profession in Government College Lahore.

Beyond Keki N Daruwalla & His Poems Under Literature Reads

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