TATA Steel Literature Live! Poet Laureate Award

Celebrated poet Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla to be honoured with the Tata Steel Literature Live! Poet Laureate Award 2017

One of India’s best-known poets and short story writers, Keki Nasserwanji Daruwalla, will be honoured as the Tata Steel Literature Live! Poet Laureate for 2017.

The award will be presented to Daruwalla on the inaugural day of the festival, 16th November, at the NCPA, Mumbai.

Says Daruwalla, “Delighted. The fact that this kind of award exists shows that people still care for poetry. All poets incidentally are not mad as people think, though the madder the poet the better the poetry. Regrettably I hail from the non-mad variety.”

Born in Lahore in January 1937, Daruwalla joined the Indian Police Service after graduating in English Literature from Punjab University in 1958. He published his first book of poems Under Orion in 1970 followed by Apparition in April in 1971, going on to win the Uttar Pradesh State Award in 1972.

The author of eighteen books including collections of poetry, short stories and a novel, he was given the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984 for his poetry collection, The Keeper of the Dead. In 1987, he was conferred with the Commonwealth Poetry Award (Asia) and the Padma Shri in 2014. Ancestral Affairs, his latest novel was published in 2015.

As a poet, Daruwalla is known for his bitter, satirical tone of poetic presentation, punctuated by poignant visual imagery. His works are laced with anger and contempt, are directed against romantic illusions and the passive Indian lifestyle. What makes his writing gripping is his insight into, and eloquence about, social structures.

Below are the first few lines of his poem Migrations, which also reflect the theme of this year’s festival, ‘India at 70’. The  turbulence and the pain are captured beautifully.

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.

Past recipients of the Tata Literature Live! Poet Laureate Award include Gulzaar Saab in 2016, Vikram Seth in 2015 and Joy Goswami in 2014.