The Idukki Dam | Anu Lal

Image: Tobias Keller

The Idukki Dam

The British built it, upon our home,
In Idukki, amidst the feral mountains Of Western Ghats*,
This structure—a leviathan of construction,
Which they said was
The symbol of modernity,
An accomplishment of human effort,
This sterile, dark, tearing off the heart,
Of the Western Ghats,
The dam with which they also ruled,
Nature with alacrity.
For two hundred years, the empire governed
Our desires and hopes, destinies and dreams.
Our home enchained,
Under the hoof of the emperor’s horse,
Dying, rising, dying again, rising again,
Like an old creature heaving for its last breath.
But the old and spent
Doesn’t impress the empire,
And it left this land, its nature,
And the people, with a tale
Of condescending kindness,
Letting the “young” nation self-govern,
With warnings of possible schisms.
But with general consolations
At the possible victories gained:
Like the railways, the dams, the roads,
And the democratic spirit.
The siren of the train is bearable,
And so is the sluggishness
Of the democratic system,
And bureaucracy, but the dam—
A silent monstrosity of Idukki,
Governing the Ghats with its grey bosom,
Serving mostly electric power-supplies.
It’s old, with dark lines of age growing
On the ramparts of the reservoirs,
Mossy, slippery wall, waiting—
For its final fall, every Monsoon,
Drowning our dwelling places
Underneath the dammed up spirit
Of the wild and tortured river,
Surpassing human alacrity.
So when the rains ravage,
We hear the echoes, of death—
Riding the horse of the old emperor,
Upon the ramparts of the old walls,
With the fear of death,
Still governing us.

[1] Idukki is one of the southern restrictions in Kerala state,
India, which is situated in the Western Ghats.

[2] Western Ghats is a chain of mountains bordering
Kerala’s western side, which is known as ecologically fragile.

Anu Lal is a writer from India. He has written extensively about his homeland, the South Indian State named Kerala. His works include poetry, short stories, novella, novel, and nonfiction. His major works include: The Notions of Living, The Notions of Healing (anthologies), Stories We Live, Thalassery Biryani (Short story collections) and Life After the Floods (nonfiction). Instagram: @authorlal

This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology, 
Dwell: Poems About Home. Purchase here.

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