Biography of Dom Moraes
Dominic Francis Moraes, popularly known as Dom Moraes, was a Goan writer, poet and columnist. He published nearly 30 books.
Moraes was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) to Beryl and Frank Moraes, former editor of the Times of India. He attended St. Mary's School (ISC), Mazagoan, Bombay, and Jesus College, Oxford University.
Moraes spent eight years in Britain, in London and Oxford, New York city, Hong Kong, Delhi and Mumbai.
He edited magazines in London, Hong Kong and New York. He became the editor of The Asia Magazine in 1971. He scripted and partially directed over 20 television documentaries for the BBC and ITV. He was a war correspondent in Algeria, Israel and Vietnam. In 1976 he joined the United Nations.
Moraes conducted one of the first interviews of the Dalai Lama after the Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India in 1959. The Dalai Lama was then 23 and Moraes was 20. Moraes ended his writing career, writing books in collaboration with Sarayu Srivatsa.
He had a lifelong battle with alcoholism. Moraes suffered from cancer, but refused treatment and died from a heart attack in Bandra, Mumbai. He was buried in the Sewri Cemetery in Mumbai and as per his last wishes Sarayu Srivatsa buried the soil from his grave in Odcombe, Somerset, on 19 July 2002 (his birthdate). Many of Dom's old friends and publishers attended the memorial service in Odcombe. A headstone in yellow Jaisalmer stone lies embedded in the front lawn of the church to mark the service.
When the Gujarat riots erupted in 2002, with their heavy toll of Muslim dead, Moraes left for Ahmedabad the minute the news came through, claiming that since he was a Catholic, Muslims would not see him as an enemy. Even though he was physically in considerable pain by then, he was one of the first on the scene.
In 1956, aged 18, he was courted by Henrietta Moraes. They married in 1961. He left her, according to his close friends in London, but did not divorce her. He had a son, Heff Moraes, with his second wife Judith. He later married celebrated Indian actress and beauty Leela Naidu and they were a star couple, known across several continents, for over two decades. They separated in the mid-1990s.
Awards and Recognitions
Hawthornden Prize for the best work of the imagination, 1958, for the book of poems A Beginning
Autumn Choice of the Poetry Book Society for Poems (1960)
Dom Moraes's Works:
1958: A Beginning, his first book of poems (winner of the Hawthornden Prize)
1960: Poems, his second book of poems
1960: Gone Away: An Indian Journey, memoir
1965: John Nobody, his third book of poems
1967: Beldam & Others, a pamphlet of verse
1983: Absences, book of poems
1987: Collected Poems: 1957-1987 (Penguin)
1992: Out of God's Oven: Travels in a Fractured Land, co-author Sarayu Srivatsa
2003: The Long Strider, co-author Sarayu Srivatsa
Heiress to Destiny, biography of Indira Gandhi
Never at Home, memoir
My Son's Father, memoir
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Dom Moraes Poems
Smear out the last star. No lights from the islands Or hills. In the great square
The architecture of an aunt Made the child dream of cupolas, Domes, other smoothly rounded shapes. Geometries troubled his sleep.
Altermann, sipping wine, reads with a look Of infinite patience and slight suffering. When I approach him, he puts down his book, Waves t the chair beside him like a king,
Ground in the Victorian lock, stiff, With difficulty screwed open, To admit me to the seven mossed stairs And the badly kept garden.
Tonight I see your blue protuberant eyes Following your angry wife, who sweeps away, With their perpetual look of mild surprise.
[For Nathan Altermann ]
Altermann, sipping wine, reads with a look
Of infinite patience and slight suffering.
When I approach him, he puts down his book,
Waves t the chair beside him like a king,
Then claps his hands, and an awed waiter fetches
Bread, kosher sausage, cake, a chicken's wing,
More wine, some English cigarettes, and matches.
‘Eat, eat,' Altermann says, ‘this is good food.'