Five Questions for... Satya Gummuluri

(above: Inside Bus No. 360, waiting for the driver, Bombay)

The next in our series of mini-interviews about home and place is with Satya Gummuluri, whose piece Islands of memory appears in Elsewhere No.02 – available via our online shop now.

What does home mean to you?

The simple answer is that home is Bombay, as you might find in Elsewhere No. 2! However, being an emigrant has meant that I’ve had to search for and redefine what home means a few times. Sometimes home means the beginnings of a sense of belonging in a place you've moved to and have lived in for a while, sometimes it means the grounded self-assuredness with which you operate in a place you're visiting for the first time. It could be a certain person or a bunch of folk; it could be a Google Hangout, a trans-Atlantic phone call with a dear friend. It could be that record from the 80s which you only play sparingly now, out of fear of your ears tiring out and you’re forever losing the memories of home it conjures up. It could be the taste of Horlicks in warm milk or chat masala added to potato salad. Home could be abstract, like the feeling the word gemütlichkeit evokes, when it comes to your mind as you take a train through the Schwarzwald and catch glimpses of homes on meadows cradled by forests in their arms of pine.

Where is your favourite place?

Lately it is a tie between Oberstdorf and Zwiefalten. There is a particular bench on a hiking trail leading from Oberstdorf where one can sit and stare at a mountain in utter awe, and there's a small café nearby where they serve the freshest buttermilk in the summer. Zwiefalten with its splendid German Baroque style abbey and crystal streams is for languid Saturday afternoons with a cloudy Klosterbräu at the local brewery.

What is beyond your front door?

After a few flights of stairs lined with retro beer advert posters appears a cosy Biergarten. Bordering the Biergarten flows a branch of the beautifully named river Blau, with its seasonal avian visitors - nesting wagtails, dippers and a crane. Summer brings fishermen to the water and all seasons bring tourists who are arrested by a view of the historic fisherman's quarters from the narrow bridge over the channel. Other traditional restaurants are a stone's throw away and a five minute cobblestoned walk passing through carefully restored centuries old houses leads to the river Danube.

What place would you most like to visit?

Tallapaka village, Andhra Pradesh, India. I’ve been working with my mother on translating a poem by Timmakka of Tallapaka village. Timmakka is a poet who lived in the 15th century AD, and some of her work was recently discovered after having been hidden away for centuries. At the end of her poem she addresses the reader directly - an overwhelming feeling of continuity and connection over vast time spans that came through those words was humbling.

What are you reading right now?

I tend to be fragmented in my reading. The book/reading material depends on the time of day and the setting; books seem to demand specific ambiences. Mornings are for books that need a clear head - at the moment this book is Discourse on the Method by René Descartes. Lunchtime reading tends to be shorter, quicker things like op-ed pieces or short fiction, the highlight this week was blazing through E.M. Forester's The Machine Stops. Bedtime reading calls for comfort zone material so I end up re-reading old favorites. Currently this is English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee.