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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Indian poet Dom Moraes dies
Dom Moraes, one of India's leading literary figures, died at his home in the western Indian city of Bombay (also known as Mumbai) on Wednesday night.

Dom Moraes
Dom Moraes - 'You can't earn money by writing poetry'
The soft-spoken author and poet published nearly 30 books, including a biography of the former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Moraes began writing poems when he was 12 and published his first book of poems, A Beginning, when he was 19.

The book won the Hawthornden Prize for the best work of imaginative literature in 1958.

Prestigious

He was the first non-English writer to win this prize and also the youngest.

VS Naipaul, Ted Hughes, Colin Thubron and Timothy Mo are among the other writers who have been awarded the Hawthornden Prize, the oldest of British literary prizes.

Renowned British poet WH Auden was said to have read and appreciated Moraes' early works.

He also edited magazines in India and abroad and scripted a number of television documentaries for many outlets, including the BBC.

He was an exquisite writer who had a turn of the phrase that nobody had
Vinod Mehta, editor, Outlook magazine

Moraes, whose father Frank who also a well-known editor and writer, travelled extensively all over the world.

He lived in London for eight years with his father who had gone there "to die", as he wrote in his recent book Out of God's Oven.

Moraes wrote that the skies of London were "unfamiliar to him", but when he returned home, India also posed a puzzle.

He once said he regretted settling in India in the beginning.

"Not in the end though," he told an interviewer last year.

Although he was born in Bombay, he never learned Hindi or any other Indian language.

"I don't think I belong anywhere," he told an interviewer recently.

'Racing against time'

Some years ago Moraes was diagnosed with cancer but refused treatment.

"After he came to know he had cancer, he was racing against time. He said he had to complete a number of projects," Vinod Mehta, editor of India's Outlook magazine and a long time friend of Moraes told BBC News Online.

Among them was a book on Afghanistan and a posthumous biography of the founder of one of the world's top engineering and construction firms.

Vinod Mehta describes Moraes as an "exquisite writer who had a turn of the phrase which nobody had".

"I remember he once wrote a piece saying the monsoons had come to Bombay like Russian diplomats - stealthily and quietly."

The Hindu newspaper paid tribute to Moraes as a "poet who nurtured his gift despite the workaday demands of prose".

Vinod Mehta said that the poet-writer never "achieved his true potential".

"He was the product of the bohemian 1960s and 1970s. He styled himself on Dylan Thomas. It was then almost mandatory for poets to be alcoholic," he told BBC News Online.

"He drank quite a bit, knew every pub in Soho till he realised that he had burnt the candle at both ends."

Mr Moraes published two books last year, including a well-received travelogue through India with an associate.

"Much of my prose was written for money. You can't earn money by writing poetry," Mr Moraes said in an interview last year.


SEE ALSO:
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03 Jan 02  |  South Asia


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