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, 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.