Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bekal Fort, Malabar 25/03/05

All straight lines and geometric, it strikes
with its absence of feature. Square or trapezoid –
it’s difficult to say – and not much of a glacis,
it’s unlike your copybook kind, devoid
of crenellation or turret. Down below, the sea
washes rocks, not footholds for enemy spikes.

It’s hard to tell what purpose it served besides
what largely seems cosmetic: from a few miles out
the walls can hardly have struck terror, given
the open coast flanking this redoubt.
There’s no artillery in sight, not even
a ceremonial gun to signal the tides.

It boasts a history, though perhaps no more
than most places on this stretch. Local kings,
Tipu, and finally the British, though God knows
why they wanted it: peripheral pickings
from some minor conquest, I suppose.
Slowly I make my way down to the shore.

But it’s a recent past that’s brought me here,
a lover’s quest for shingle. The sun, the very air,
even the wide Arabian that rules this strand
smells and looks different from where
I live, forty-odd miles up the land;
and the heat’s a whole lot steamier.

Loved country once, mapped fondly in my mind
and subtly scented, its wafted bouquet
had held me captive in its power.
But none of that survives now: instead, a grey
malignancy reigns, blue gone sour.
The horizon skulks, hard to find.

***

2 comments:

Uma K said...

Maybe the fort was built for you to write this...

Pragya said...

I think it was too!