About the poet:
Keki Nasserji Daruwalla is an Indian English poet and short story writer. He was born in 1937 in Lahore (which is now in Pakistan).
Daruwalla has published nine volumes of poetry, the first being Under Orion (1970), and the latest ones being Night River (2000) and The Map-Makers (2002). His Collected Poems were published by Penguin India in 2006. He has also published a novella and three volumes of short stories. He has even edited an anthology of Indian Poetry in English and written two books of poems for children.
Daruwalla’s first book of short stories, Sword and Abyss came out in 1979. This was followed by The Minister for Permanent Unrest in 1996.His third book of fiction, A House in Ranikhet appeared in 2003.
Daruwalla’s historical novel “For Pepper and Christ” was short-listed in 2010 for the Commonwealth Fiction Prize for UK and Asia. He received Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Asia in 1987. He also won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984 for his volume of poetry entitled The Keeper of the Dead. He was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2014.
Daruwalla is president of The Poetry Society of India and is presently based in Delhi.
About Razia the Tigress:
Not much is known about the publication details of this poem. What we do know for sure is that it is a heart-rending tale of a widowed tigress’s quest to keep her new-born cubs safe.
The Setting of Razia the Tigress:
This poem is set in the forest in which Razia lives with her cubs. Her husband Sheru had also lived there before he was killed by poachers. There is a healthy mix of many animals in this forest. Deer and hyena are commonly seen. Thick bushes and shrubs fill the area. However, it is not free from the attacks of poachers. Hence, it is an unsafe environment for young cubs, such as the ones Razia has.
Stanza-wise Summary of Razia the Tigress:
The poem consists of 8 stanzas. Each of these stanzas is again made up of 4 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 32 lines in total.
The tigress Razia lives alone.
Her two cubs haven’t been named.
Sheru barely played with them
And now he’s gone, O what a shame!
In this stanza, the poet describes a family of tigers. The mother is called Razia, and the father is called Sheru. They have two cubs, but the cubs have not yet been given names. In just such a short time after the cubs’ birth, Sheru has died and left his family behind. He has never even played with his children.
Sheru was an expert on winds,
Knew how they traversed dale and hill.
And where they put up for the night
When no leaf stirred and all was still.
In this stanza, the poet describes what Sheru is remembered for. He had immense knowledge of the winds that blow in the forest. They came down from hills and traveled across valleys to reach the forest in question, where Sheru lived with his family. Sheru even knew that the winds hadn’t disappeared when, at night, the leaves on the trees stopped rustling and no sound could be heard anywhere in the forest. Sheru believed that the winds were simply choosing to stay hidden until the morning when they would strike again as if they were travelers taking shelter at an Inn for the night before they began their journey anew the next day.
He knew their winds, their traffic lanes!
He knew the deer would smell him out,
If they were down – wind.
So he would belly – crawl and crouch
In this stanza, the poet describes how crafty Sheru was. Sheru knew that if his scent was picked up by the winds, then that scent would be carried cleanly to the deer that he was trying to hunt. In that case, the deer would avoid walking in the direction in which Sheru was. To avoid such a circumstance, Sheru would crouch down and crawl with his belly touching the ground so that his scent would not be picked up by the wind.
And take a long circular route,
Hiding behind bush and shrub.
Once he knew his scent won’t carry,
In a flash he would erupt.
In this stanza, the poet describes how Sheru would hunt his prey. Sheru would walk in circles to throw off his scent. Then he would hide behind the thick bushes and the tall shrubs in the forest so that he remained out of sight and so that the threat of an imminent attack on them would not be detected by the deer. Once he was sure that the deer had not picked up his scent, he would suddenly jump out of the bushes and attack them so fast that they would not even who it is that had attacked them before they were mauled and killed.
(Deer hadn’t sniffed that thick and musty
Smell of his which people dubbed
As tiger – scent) He got the stag,
His claw fell like a giant club
In this stanza, the poet describes how Sheru’s scent was musty and strong, and how it was the perfect example of what was known as tiger-scent. However, the deer had not managed to pick up that tiger-scent. As a result, Sheru was able to hunt a stag that would fill the bellies of his family members. When Sheru was hunting the stag, his claw fell on the body of the stag in the same manner as a huge club with which you could easily beat any animal to death.
On neck and antler – both were crushed.
Now Sheru’s gone. Not any more
Do people fear his dreaded spoor,
Pug – marked on the forest floor.
In this stanza, the poet describes the way in which both the neck and the antler of the stag that Sheru had killed were crushed under the weight of Sheru’s claw. However, then he suddenly remembers that Sheru is gone now. No one is afraid of his scent anymore because they know that the scent and its consequent threat of danger and death are no longer present. Sheru does not leave his foot prints on the ground in the forest anymore.
Grief and fear start competing
In Razia’s heart. With Sheru gone,
Will the hyenas hound her cubs?
Can she leave the little ones alone,
In this stanza, the poet again turns to the so-called protagonist of his poem, that is, Razia – the widow of Sheru. Razia reacts to Sheru’s death with both grief and fear. Both the grief and the fear that she experiences are in such large amounts that it is impossible to tell whose amount is more. It is as if they are competing with each other for dominance over Razia’s temperament. Razia worries about whether hyenas will chase her cubs around and finally manage to catch and carry one of them off.
When she goes hunting flesh and bone?
The tigress Razia lives in fear.
A greater dread, when will again
The poachers with their guns appear?
In this stanza, the poet describes another apprehensive situation that Razia has to face at times. Being the sole hunter left in the family, Razia has to venture out alone in order to hunt prey and provide food for her cubs. However, she is always afraid about whether it is safe to leave her little children behind at such times since they are too young to defend themselves alone if some danger arises. However, the thing that Razia fears the most is the appearance of poachers. Poachers may kill her cubs in the same way that they have killed her husband Sheru.