Though almost a month has passed upon returning to the U.S., India has been on my mind each day. Over the course of the year, I came to deeply appreciate each of the little quirks of my workplace and the beauty of Tamil Nadu. This poem attempts to encapsulate the essence of my daily life while living and working at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.
For the Love of a Place
Her night is silent.
Except for the howl of distant dogs,
The shrill chirp of crickets,
And the neem leaves rustling
In the breeze that carries the roar of the ocean over the treetops,
Before percolating through the canopy and settling softly on the sand.
Abruptly, the fierce jaws of a crocodile clap down to cause a thundering splash that shakes the still air.
And once again, it is quiet.
I hear my heartbeat, in the silence of the night.
Or, is it simply her cloak of darkness that billows over me,
Tricking my ears as much as my eyes?
Her day is filled with as much sound as her night lacks.
Children squealing, parents shouting,
Ooohs and Aaahs and Awws
Chirping birds, humming insects, and crunching leaves.
Disparate remarks in unidentified tongues
Weave together into a mesh with notable linguistic flair.
The ebb and flow of her days and nights
Eventually shake hands,
And pull each other into a gentle tango
Before they engulf each other and become one.
She lends a certain comfort to those in her embrace,
The way her ocean gently cradles the foam that forms on the shore.
She is greater than the sum of her parts.
A latitude and longitude on a map
Inanimate edifices, crowded roads,
Come alive if you know how to appreciate them.
Her warmth is more stifling than any mortal passion
As it mercilessly submerges you
And there is no choice to submit.
But once you learn to float,
When you come to understand her weather pattern and predict its anomalies,
When you lose yourself within the heavy folds of her history,
That’s what it means to love a place.