Last Rites


The frail nerd   on her smartphone 

Typing furiously to   solve   an algorithm

Inside   a rented room in Berlin

Her ancestral bangle on her right arm 

Designed a century back by a now dead craftsman 

Somewhere in an   old Delhi bazaar.

She doesn't know a thing about her great grandmother 

The first woman who passed this superb piece to another woman 

Beginning what she imagined was an unbroken chain

Of memory and desire, a continuity of   shared emotions 

Passed on from woman to woman, like some mythic baton

Transcending its metallic value, becoming folklore.

If   you   observe the girl's   immersion keenly you will know

Between tradition's memory and   technology's sorcery

She    loves   the latter   much more.

Between a smartphone's endless inventiveness 

And   an ancient bangle's fading sheen

A rationalist like her   favors   the smartphone

And in so doing announces   herself as the family rebel.

Some day soon she will part with   the bangle  

Probably to buy a set of new   ear pods   or an electric blanket.

Ease is her   thing, and it's not suggestive of a moral lapse

Even if   it   hastens the death of a   tradition,

The   collapse of an imaginary unbroken chain.

There's no one with her to celebrate or lament

The death of an idea, once conceived in   a   Delhi duplex

Being laid to rest in remote Berlin

Amid   sellers   of     wonderful beer and makers of   great machines.

Tehri— In Memory

(Tehri, a princely estate of  Garhwal region in North India was submerged under the waters of Bhagirathi and Bhilangana rivers in late 1990s to make way for  Tehri dam, the highest dam in India.) 

Trapezium   on a white sheet 

Drawn free hand 

Buildings half   submerged in a river

My   friend   mimics a   dead   city's map on a blank page

He gets it all wrong, the shapes and contours 

Making   obelisks of   minarets, flat roofs where slopes existed.

The way a   city begins is the same everywhere

Water   comes first, potent enough  

To make men   dream , invent, breed, destroy,

To make a place soar before it   begins   to fall.

By the river   my city  was born 

By the river it   flourished 

A farrago of   new and old

Of    rice   fields and rhododendrons 

Runners at dawn, drunk men around bonfires at dusk.

Nothing  significant   about it

Nothing of note you say.

When you remember a dead city 

Are you feeling things that others are not in touch with?

Some   days   memory is just a ruse 

Summoning sights mangled by imagination's thick sauce

But  as we said water comes first,

Potent enough to   breed and destroy

It is where civilizations   begin without fanfare 

In odd cases it is where   cities breathe their last.

About The Author

Anil Petwal is a writer and a public servant, living in Dehradun, India.He self published a book of poems titled ‘A Boy’s Juvenilia’ in his college years and has words upcoming in The Punch Magazine. He is presently querying for his first novel and working on a book of poems. He can be reached on Twitter at- @IamAnilPetwal.