Finding February: Poetries and Homes

I called over to S [name changed], “Are you looking at this Rochelle D’Silva book?  Did you read the back cover?”

S looked up understanding exactly what my question was insinuating — the last line of the poet’s biography note.  As her nod met my smile, another woman’s voice behind me asked what it was about the back cover I found interesting.

I turned around to be immediately taken by the stark red lipstick perfectly outlining the lips from which the words came.  “The title alone [When Home is an Idea], but all these concepts and ideas she writes on draw me so deeply.  Space.  Place.  Home.  These are what I live on.  I’m curious what she will say.  But especially this last line — ‘And she endorses hugs.’  I really appreciate that.”

She uttered a simple, matter-of-fact “Yea, I do” as she reached over and gave me an earthy embrace.

The garden behind David Sassoon Library, host site to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival poetry sessions.  Bombay, February 2018.


How good it is for hugs to exist.  How good it is for hugs to be a way to overcome being strangers.  And how good it is that hugs aren’t just human actions.  What do you think, a mountain, a city, a breeze, a scent can hug you?  Such personal or natural embraces help locate our selves, our people, our memories, our homes, our places of pause.  In certain words,  “Place is a pause in movement. . . The pause makes it possible for a locality to become a center of felt value.” [1]

Holding a collection of poems that explores belonging, identity, place(s), and other themes like home, it only seemed right to consider my own impressions of these ideas and relive some of my writings, most of which concentrate on these same tropes in varying degrees of abstraction and personal location.  There’s one poem of Rochelle’s in this book, that especially grounded me.  The ending stanza:

“Would you talk to me if I return?

If I come back with all the time in the world

If I sit here and listen to you

If I never leave”

Though the full poem is directed to specifically someone — and immediately brought a particular vision to me — I thought generally about the traces of people, of places, that are left on us and to which we sometimes need to return and listen.  Once I was told by Julian Hoffman paraphrasing his writings about the connections between perception of self and nature: “We find landscapes that articulate something of our selves.”  Considering the current landscapes that normally surround me in Ladakh, I wanted to time travel back and push back on his sentiment.  Though I came to Leh town, I walk around, I breathe in this mountain desert, and I do find resonance in what I see and feel, I can’t but think that I’ve been found by this landscape — not the other way around, as Julian suggests.  I’ve written three poems about this since settling in Ladakh:  One about the rapture and drama of the topography and climate in the region, another about listening to its stories.  In continuation of Rochelle’s questions about what could happen if she were to return to a certain place and her particular person, if she could just listen, I include here what emotions, memories, embraces I’ve received from this Leh place.  Come visit and let me introduce these named spots.


Under this city

rest lores,


of narratives

enough to rebuild

what we now call

the Old Town Slum.

called so

ironically, politically,

to conserve, reserve

the visions

of past dreams

but the resource

has since been


to the force

of others —

those who don’t remember

the mosaics of mothers,

the hymns of houses,

or the maps of memories

left in the grooves

of walls

plastered by


fingertips —


that reveal more than


or lines of ownership ever could.

what is ownership without

the investment of bodies




a home place,

a trace

that migrates through


and courses through


into souls

that breath in these spaces

left waiting

and waiting

and waiting.


stand in front of Sufi House;

face yourself southward

from atop Lakruk House:

don’t you hear the echoes?

the echoes of Old Town.

not from this modern legal fair, but

its pre-Dogra air.

don’t you see?

see the clouds of curiosity

that meet our eyes as

met their eyes?

don’t you feel it?

feel the heat gifted

us by the bukhari

as gifted them?

don’t you taste it?

taste the pink tea’s salt and butter swirling

on our tongues as

on their tongues?

don’t you yet know?

explore and you’’ll




Facing southward from atop Lakruk House, overlooking Old Town Leh. The Palace fills the hillside to the North.  Leh, December 2017.

Where do you belong? 

julley ~ drew



[1]  Tuan, Yi-Fu.  Space and Place:  The Perspective of Experience.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

D’Silva, Rochelle. When Home Is an Idea. Mumbai: Bombaykala, 2017.

Hoffman, Julian. The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013.

Andrew is excited to join the Snow Leopard Conservancy - India Trust to work with the education program for monks and nuns as an AIF Clinton Fellow. He is a firm believer in the human ability and duty to serve our neighbors far and near. What is important to him is to always be engaged with people and collaboratively work for cooperation, empowerment, and sustainability. He has helped build houses in Trinidad and Tobago as well as Sri Lanka; researched nonlinear optics in France; taught tennis, 5th grade, and high school programs in the U.S.; and analyzed sanitation projects in India. He aspires to motivate these experiences into an informed and adaptive life mission of service. After spending ten months studying Urdu in Lucknow, he is grateful to continue living in India, engaging this perplexing place he calls home-away-from-home. Andrew holds a B.Sc. in Physics from Austin Peay State University, an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago, and is always seeking to learn more.

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Us

Stay up to date on the latest news and help spread the word.

Get Involved

Our regional chapters let you bring the AIF community offline. Meet up and be a part of a chapter near you.

Join a Chapter
Skip to content