A fascinating session on ‘The Writer’s choice’ was organised by Belletristic, the literature society of Department of English at Shoolini University. The speaker for the session was the renowned Indian poet and author, Padmashri Keki Daruwalla. He is a former Indian Police Service officer. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi, Award by the Sahitya Akademi India’s National Academy of Letters, in 1984 for his poetry collection, ‘The keeper of the dead.’ He also received the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia in 1987. In 2014, he was awarded the Padmashri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
Keki talked about his all-time favourite text, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Cantos of Inferno and also read some of his own poems. He had imagined his recent Naishapur to Babylon, published in 2018, to be his last poetry book, but the pandemic-induced lockdown compelled him to write verse again. While explaining the complexities of Dante’s world in the Divine Comedy, and in particular, in Inferno, Keki Daruwalla mentioned that the lockdown made him turn to the classic text in earnest over the last few months. He pointed out that Dante deserves to be placed among the greatest of the world’s writers. In fact, TS Eliot believes that the world is divided between Dante and Shakespeare; there is no third.
Talking at length about his own work, Keki read several of his poems, much to the delight of the audience that comprised mainly students and teachers of literature.
The session was very scintillating and tempered. Combining two antithetical careers that of a cop and a poet – Keki has made a niche for himself and students of literature regularly cite his verse, agreeing with what Nissim Ezekiel once said, “Daruwalla has the energy of the lion”.
Prof Manju Jaidka, HoD, Department of English at Shoolini University, is the driving force behind the events, stated that the aim of Belletristic Fridays is threefold, one to go back to the basics and re-discover the classics of literature, second is to spread the awareness and love for literature particularly among youngsters who because of many distractions have strayed away from books and authors, and third is to create a platform where the young and the old may be meaningfully engaged in the trying times of Covid 19