Nissim Ezekiel was a prominent Indian Jewish figure. He left an indelible mark as a poet, actor, playwright, editor, and art critic. Ezekiel played a foundational role in shaping postcolonial India’s literary landscape, particularly in the realm of Indian poetry in English.

Born on December 16, 1924, in Bombay Maharashtra, Ezekiel hailed from a family deeply rooted in academia.

His father served as a botany professor at Wilson College, while his mother held the position of principal at her own school.

Belonging to Mumbai’s Marathi-speaking Jewish community, known as the Bene Israel, Ezekiel’s early years were immersed in a rich cultural and educational environment.

In 1947, Ezekiel earned his BA in Literature from Wilson College, Mumbai, affiliated with Bombay University.

During 1947-48, he delved into teaching English literature and contributed articles to the literary realm.

In November 1948, he set sail for England. There, he pursued the study of philosophy at Birkbeck College, London.

Nissim Ezekiel’s literary journey unfolded with the publication of his first book, “A Time to Change,” in 1952.

He continued to contribute to the poetic landscape with another volume evolving style and thematic explorations, “The Deadly Man,” in 1960.

He co-founded the literary monthly magazine Jumpo in 1961.

Ezekiel’s diverse career included serving as the art critic of The Times of India (1964–66) and editing Poetry India (1966–67).

From 1961 to 1972, he headed the English department at Mithibai College, Bombay.

His fifth book of poetry, “The Exact Name,” was published in 1965. This collection continued Ezekiel’s exploration of diverse themes and solidified his position as a leading voice in Indian English poetry.

In 1969, Ezekiel published “Three Plays” at the Writers Workshop, featuring works such as “Nalini,” “Marriage Poem,” and “The Sleep-walkers.”

In 1970, he presented an art series for Indian television.

“Hymns in Darkness” (1976): This work further delves into Ezekiel’s exploration of diverse themes and his mastery of poetic expression.

In 1976, he collaborated with Vrinda Nabar to translate Jawaharlal Nehru’s poetry from English to Marathi and co-edited a fiction and poetry anthology.

“Collected Poems” (1952-1988): A compilation of Ezekiel’s poems spanning several decades, providing readers with a comprehensive view of his poetic evolution.

Ezekiel’s influence extended beyond the literary realm; his poem “The Night of the Scorpion” became a study material in Indian and Colombian schools.

His poems, including those in ‘Indian English,’ found a place in NCERT and ICSE English textbooks.

The poem “Background, Casually” is often considered the defining work of his poetic and personal career.

Regarded as the father of Modern Indian English poetry by many critics, Ezekiel received accolades for his contributions. In 1983, he was honored with the Sahitya Akademi cultural award for the collection “Latter-Day Psalms.”

In 1988, he was bestowed with the Padmashri award by the President of India. His impact on Indian literature and poetry remains enduring and influential.

Nissim Ezekiel faced a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and he passed away in Mumbai on January 9, 2004, at the age of 79. Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging and often heartbreaking condition, and Ezekiel’s contribution to literature remains an enduring part of his legacy.