Short Stories Not Popular With Indian Writers: Daruwalla

Annie Samson/New Delhi
Short Stories Not Popular With Indian Writers: Daruwalla
Noted writer Keki N Daruwalla returns with well-loved fiction in the form of short stories, a genre the prize winning poet says is not a favourite among Indian authors.

Daruwalla, a stalwart of Indian poetry, who has picked up the the Sahitya Akademi Award (1984) and Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1987), has collated 20 stories in his new book Love Across the Salt Desert by Penguin India.

"For now I have given poetry a break and am concentrating on fiction, short stories. The current book is a selection of 20 stories some new and some old," Daruwalla told PTI in an interview.

The author more known for his vivid, sensitive poems had published his first novel For Pepper and Christ in 2009.

His latest book is named after the heartwarming lead story, a tale where the protagonist a shy young lad defies authority and crosses the international border between India and Pakistan in pursuit of love.

The story is part of syllabus and is included in school textbooks in the country.

"I wanted the book to be named after the story because I thought it would trigger some old memory ," says the poet- storyteller.

Citing Kushwant Singh and Bunny Reuben as favourites, the writer says, "These authors are known for their short stories. Of late Indian authors have not taken to the genre."

Irrespective of whether it is fiction or poetry the muse remains the same, says the 74 year old Delhi-based writer who is currently the president of the Poetry Society of India.

"The art and inner stream and your creative instincts are the same whether you dabble in fiction or you dabble in poetry," says Daruwalla who began writing in school and whose first book Under Orion was published in 1970.

The author, a senior police officer who retired from the IPS often portrayed in his works the rich landscapes, people and the plight of the human being confronting life.

"In my profession I got to travel a lot both in India and abroad. My stories and my poetry is rooted in the soil and it reeks of the soil the hard external reality of people, especially in India," says Daruwalla.

The poet says he incorporates a a lot of rural landscape and rural India which the Indian language authors talk about but "not much is written about in English."

"I bring in the locale and introduce the characters before plunging into the story. Like the story on the Trojan Horse, I made up a story on a metaphor," he says.

Daruwalla's newest book contains varied stories. When Gandhi Came to Gorakhpur is about a small-time lawyer who dithers over giving up his profession and joining the freedom struggle until his mind is made up for him. In Of Abul Qasim Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni stints on a few silver coins for the poet Abul Qasim, he is visited by terrible nightmares.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Daruwalla says he spent four years in England and had travelled a lot in Europe and America, a period which gave him lot of inspiration.

While I was writing 'Pepper and Christ' about voyages of Vasco DGama, I simultaneously wrote a book The Map Maker on poetry containing monologues poems on voyaging", he says.

After over 12 books the author says he has not run out of ideas.

"Many writers face that but I haven't run dry yet. I have enough ideas and will bring out another book of newer short stories later this year."

"I don't write poetry now because you are afraid of repeating yourself. The rhymes, the way you begin or end a poem, may get repeated. Also you are not a master of your creative impulse," says the Delhi-based writer.

The storyteller says he will stick to fiction and poems and "will not indulge in non fiction writing."

"I have also written two 3-act plays too, one of them has been dramatised in Mumbai and I will get them published soon. But before that I am hoping to get them performed."

"The first Rakhael and Darius Codo Manun about Darius 3 contains poetic drama in context of Greek and Persian," says Daruwalla.
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