Hyderabad, I miss you. And I miss myself along with you.

Living alone was one of the dreams that I never knew I had. Living with friends, F.R.I.E.N.D.S taught me, was an even better dream to have. This living alone time came and flew away so quickly, I hardly got time to grasp it all. And here I am, thinking back and wondering if it’s ever going to happen again.

I am about to complete one year since the time I came to visit home for 2 months, and I mentioned this to every person who asked me because I needed a constant reminder that I am not done with Hyderabad yet, that I’m gonna go back. 2 months turned to 3 to 4 and then reality struck that going back is not happening so soon. I left that city for good, while not even getting a chance to go back and say goodbye.

This city, perfectly balanced between happening and laid back, safe enough to never let me feel I cannot go somewhere because I am a girl, and empowering me in the process, will always remain special in my heart. Letting me make new friends, and helping in re-kindling old faded friendships, teaching to stay alone even in a crowd and also somehow making me feel whole when I used to be alone, this city has given me all kinds of days; good, bad, happy and sad.

From a timid college fresher, always second guessing herself and asking for reassurances, to a grown up, helping others fight the same battle; looking from this other end of the spectrum reminds me of the innocent and scared person I used to be. But I cannot separate that person from this city because that’s where that person used to live. I am afraid that going back is never going to be the same (if it happens), because people, relationships, situations, and even I would have changed. I do look forward to more challenges that are gonna come in front of me, and I know I am a more mature person than I used to be to face them. But goodbyes are always difficult. Here’s to the goodbye I never got to say, and one which I would like to say, even if I go back.

To the experiences I had, and the ones I couldn't,
To the person I was, and the one into whom I grew,
Hyderabad I miss you.
And I miss myself along with you !

Gratitude

Amidst these difficult times, everyone is striving and trying to do their best. I do not really want to comment on what should or could have been done differently because I am not best equipped to shed light on that. But I do want everyone to hold on to every string of positivity that we can, to show gratitude to all the people and things.

I am grateful to all the shopkeepers and daily workers around me that were always there to provide with the necessities on our every beck and call. Be it the shopkeeper who was delivering the medicine to our society, or the vegetable vendor that my mom could call to provide certain fruits and vegetables to us. And also to the guard and other helpers working in our society who kept delivering everything till our flat’s gate because we weren’t allowed to step out. They were not doing this just for my family but for all those families that were infected in our society. I am grateful and thankful to all these people for putting up with my and my families’ needs first, even though they were at risk as well.

I am grateful to all the helpful families that live nearby us, who kept asking us if we needed anything, kept sharing their experiences and all the tips and tricks they used to get over the illness themselves. And I am so grateful to all the aunties near me who provided us with proper home cooked meal because we lacked the energy to do so. I cannot even express how much it meant to us and I cannot imagine how they were so selfless and upfront about it. I keep imagining to cook a lot of tasty food for them whenever I can!

I am grateful to all my friends who kept checking up on me, who kept making me feel better and asked about my whereabouts from time to time. And also for keeping the conversation light hearted at times, because that is what we need in these times, something to hold on to and not to be reminded of the bad things all the times. Thank you for always being there.

But I am not just grateful to the people who helped me directly or indirectly. I am grateful to all those people who are in a similar or maybe a worse situation than me and who are doing everything in their power to survive through it all. I cannot imagine the hardships of millions of people out there, who might not have the same facilities that I have. I am grateful for people for fighting and not giving up. I am grateful to all those selfless souls, doctors, other front line fighters, and all the people who are constantly helping others for any contacts round the clock, for doing all those things that I don’t think I could have done. I am also grateful to all those people who are putting aside their personal plans because of the current situation, because that ain’t easy for anyone to do after so much planning. But this in no way undermines anyone who had to go through any plan because everyone faces different circumstances and does what is the best for them.

I know we will all get through it all, because that is inevitable. Yes the world will be a little more difficult to be in with so much pain, so much suffering and loss, but we gotta stick together through it all and do our part as much as we can, whilst also caring about our physical and mental needs, because everyone needs time to recover and everyone cannot be a superhero. So just let’s do whatever we can, guilt free, but let’s do our part because together we can all survive it!

Sex and the city

Having just finished binging the amazing series Sex and the City, my head is muddled with all kinds of emotions. Feeling like Carrie Bradshaw, and writing about emotions and wondering what it all means, and hoping that whatever I say might matter to someone as well. I wish feeling like Carrie involved the cute outfits and experiencing the New York City as well, but for today, I’ll have to keep it limited to the writing.

This series is so much more than just sex and the city. It talks about relationships, experiences, discovering yourself, growing past your fears and embracing someone or something that you thought you never could, LIVING in a city and enjoying everything that it has to offer, outfits, oh so cute outfits, and above everything else, friendships.

There were many moments in this “too ahead of its time” series, where somehow the problems faced by Carrie and her friends in early 2000s felt way too similar to the kind of things the millenial Indians are dealing with themselves. We have been through it all, from wanting to celebrate singlehood, yet fearing that singlehood is going to make us lonely; trying to find the perfect person for ourselves, yet making mistakes and settling for people and regretting; marriages being the hottest topic all around and not being one of the married people making us feel like a failure; being in too many relationships and being judged; and many more that I am yet to deal with.

Like everything, the series has a rosy ending, and the protagonists find true love and apparently lives happily ever after (thank god there were movies to tell us how rosy the life turned out to be) but that makes me wonder that even though we might relate to the problems and issues faced by the characters we see on TV, do we get the same endings that they get, ever? Not just in the matters of love, but all other walks of life as well?

But the part that I loved the most was these women, these four amazing fabulous women, who were so different and yet so similar. We have to agree that we do not always think like our friends do, but sometimes it becomes difficult to deal with these differences, we judge each other, fight with each other, grow apart, we even try to change ourselves to fit in. But it matters more to be more accepting of each other, even if how we look at the world is poles apart, we need to celebrate each other’s choices and be supportive. And that is the icing on the cake for this series.

I think this is what I want to take away from the series as well. Love or no love, getting married to somebody or just to yourself, it’s all alright, and having people in your life who will support you through all these phases, what more can one want?

Finding Peace

One of the greatest question, stretched across humanity. Something that we want to find for ourselves and for the world as well, something that we think will bring utmost happiness to us. There have been numerable books that talk about how you can achieve it, or can come closest to achieving it. I haven’t really read any such books because I am afraid that I am too messed up to find something meaningful out of them, and too lazy to make efforts and bring considerable changes in my lifestyle. But that does not mean that I have given up on this search for finding peace.

The meaning of peace for me changes often, because mostly it is related to giving a rest to what has been bothering me. Resolving things with a friend, having a good cry after long, letting out my feelings in front of someone, replying to that one text that I have been afraid to open since the morning, addressing the small and big issues that I didn’t want to, sometimes these small wins make up my day and result in a good night’s sleep.

If there aren’t these small wins in my daily life, sometimes (rarely but there are days) when my office life saves me. Even if I don’t like my work on many days, that one day when I do some good work, solve some bug, make that code work, learn something which changes my perspective, even if that something is small enough for the rest of the world, that day I feel utterly happy and at peace with myself. And sometimes, the joy of closing 10-20 tabs are enough for some peace of mind.

Sometimes there are days when nothing happens on its own, neither small nor big, that can make me feel good about myself and I need to put in some effort. I need to try something new, be it some dish or some yoga asana. If not something new, I have to fallback to following a routine because all the checked items give a satisfaction at the end of the day. Sometimes doing a small thing differently is great as well, like sitting on the balcony floor for a cup of tea or doing nothing and listening to good music (and not simply as a background noise while working).

Though on most days, I don’t find peace in anything. I struggle. I roam around, unable to enjoy anything. Unable to grasp any word of the book I am reading, watching episode after episode just to get lost, sometimes not liking even my favourite dish and simply swallowing it, having conversations that I forget within the next 5 minutes.

But when there are these rare peaceful days, I feel really thankful and enlightened, that the answer had been here all along. I am reminded of how sometimes some effort is needed to make your own day. For days when nothing great happens, it is important to have those small easy tasks that you can quickly finish off, it is important to do something nice for yourself, it is important to take a break, it is important to unwind in whatever way suits you and understand yourself better.
I know I’ll go back to my normal lost self tomorrow, but it feels good to say it out loud and be aware of the answer, that if I want to find that peace, even though temporarily, I don’t have to do a full fledged soul searching, cleaning my room might also work for me today 🙂

Patriarchy

Living in a country like India, (well I am not gonna blame India completely), so yes living in this world in the 21st Century and also India, patriarchy is all I have seen while growing up and even more so after as an adult, and old enough to recognize it.

I live in a country where women are supposed to know all the household chores as soon as they come out of the womb. Nobody bats an eye if a woman is going crazy, trying to juggle house and work together. But I do get to hear phrases such as, “Look at him, even though he is a boy, he helps out his mom so much”. Because obviously, he is not supposed to help out his mom at all but he is an amazing boy that he did so. But a girl does not have a choice. If she cannot cook, most likely she will remain unmarried.

A boy is asked to learn how to wash utensils because how else will he survive in the progressive world that we are going to become and how will he manage to live with a wife who won’t have such things in her house. Maybe a little better, but even now the reason is not this that he should learn to do it because it is correct, because it is his duty as well. He is just a victim who has to step up his game because girls are progressive nowadays.

Mom takes care of everybody’s needs. She is asked to cook various things because that’s what all the people in the house demand. But maybe it is ok, dad works and mom takes care of the house. But what about in the lockdown? Nobody is working anymore, but now mom is supposed to take care of everybody 24*7 (which used to be less earlier, thanks to schools and offices), and also entertain them because they are getting bored in the house.
Even if mom is not feeling well, she has to manage the work on her own. Nobody steps up, maybe her children but definitely not her husband because he is the man of the house and he is entitled to get all his needs fulfilled, whilst sitting on the chair all day long.

If a girl gets married and wants to stay with her maiden family for a couple of months, she has been blessed with a very good husband because he “let” her do this. Because obviously, now that she is married, he and his family have a right on her and they can refuse that she is not supposed to stay with her family for a long duration.

When series such as “Indian Matchmaking” use phrases like “you have to be flexible”, “compromise a little”, “girls have to adjust”, they definitely hit home because this is all I have heard while growing up. You are a woman and you have to be more understanding if you want to make a marriage work. Obviously two people have to be understanding to make something work but I, being a woman, have an added responsibility on me to stay quiet at times, to just nod my head and agree with the other person in order to save my marriage.

If a girl is short tempered, the phrase used is “she is like a man” because usually it’s men who have a short temper. Or have you wondered that a lot of short tempered women had to learn to keep the anger inside and allowed all the men to show this side, because again, men are entitled to do so?

I am not okay with this, and I know a lot of women and men are not okay with this as well. But nobody speaks up. Because we don’t really know what to do. If a girl voices out such things, she is called a feminist, by people who clearly don’t understand what this term means, and it’s said that she is being too aggressive. She is told to shut up and told that nobody, especially the family of the boy she’ll marry, will put up with such behavior.

This is not a rant about marriage, or in any way trying to undermine that guys do not have problems or are not judged by the society. I am sure that is true and many of those problems are a direct result of the patriarchal system that surrounds us. But enough with this. If remaining unmarried is how it’s gonna be, then be it. But I do not want to be a part of something that I detest so much. And I am not going to set a wrong example for the coming generations, that look at that girl, she adjusted and had a happy life, where maybe I might not have been happy at all.

Poetry

What is poetry?

I cannot say with surety

Apparently it has something to do with a rhyme

And have deep sounding words like atrocious, wander or maybe thyme

Sometimes easy and sometimes difficult to comprehend

Sometimes meaninglessly talking about a new trend

Nevertheless it lets you have a look in the poet’s creative mind

Don’t look too much though, it’s possible that there is nothing much to find

I would actually go back and say that it’s just about putting rhyming things together

Willfully selecting less relevant words, making the meaning difficult to gather

Simple put, in reality it’s not that difficult a job

Just find the correct motivation, happiness, anger or something to help stifle a sob!

Just an average?

As a kid, her parents wanted her to excel in everything (just like all brown parents!). They were so proud of their little daughter and never stopped her from taking part in things but she was just average, average at everything, amazing at nothing! She felt pressurized but she tried to handle it and gave it her best shot.
So she took part in everything. She danced in annual functions with other kids, and sometimes at home on the most random and ridiculous Bollywood songs. She sang in the school choir with her classmates. She drew in her art notebook and in the school art class with all her concentration and effort. She wrote diary entries that soon turned into rants, poems and sometimes letters to friends who had changed schools. She read books, the famous cliched books. She took part in some bare minimum sports. But just an average in all of them. Present everywhere, but not known to be there by any, not a necessary part of anything. Jack of all trades, master of none.

For the longest time, she was an average in studies as well but at one point of time, she left all her other interests at bay and focused all her energy into studies to emerge as much better than she was at other things. This rush of confidence made her put more energy in this direction, leaving everything behind and she was able to make a mark for herself in a little better than average place in the world, with a little better than average college, a little better than average job! Nothing was THE BEST even now, but she had learnt that she was good at this and she’ll work it out.

Learning from her past that the only thing she was best at was studies, she thought that she can do her job really well. She tried but sometimes it was mentally exhausting, sometimes she felt that she was not good enough, sometimes she could not make time to do things properly or study things to do her job, sometimes she just wanted to enjoy the new phase of life and have fun, spend that hard earned money (maybe not so hard; go ahead, make the “that’s what she said joke”!). So with a lot of new confidence came the sense of dread and downfall that maybe she did not know enough, maybe she was just an average after all, no matter what she thought or did.

She tried to pursue the long lost interests of childhood. Write something, draw or paint a little, dance for herself and not just in the pub, read better books! But everywhere she looked, she was still an average at these things, in fact more average than she used to be as a kid and that was really demotivating.

But then came a realization, that what if she is an average? If everyone is going to be best at everything, naturally that “best” would be an average only (statistically speaking). So basically more often that not, someone or the other is going to make her feel like she sucks at what she does. Does that mean she should stop doing it? Should she stop doing her job if she is not the best developer out there? Maybe her company is not running solely on her contribution and maybe if she drops dead two days later, the company will not get affected. Maybe nobody reads what she writes, maybe people make fun of the stupid pictures of what she draws, maybe her dance covers lack that grace or jazz. Obviously people are much much better at it. So should she stop pursuing these interests because she is not good enough? Is that how it’s gonna end for her? Wondering in life, what is she good at and doing nothing at all while waiting?

So here I am, an average person, giving it a shot. Reading more books and writing my feelings and review on them; singing, sometimes, for those who would dare to listen; painting and pasting them on my wardrobe; learning dance covers (and promising a lot of friends that we will make a video someday, hopefully that day would come in this lifetime); learning a new language and trying to decode lyrics; working out more than I have ever done in my lifetime with a hope that someday I will nail that Chakrasana (I am still a beginner to even talk about headstands); cooking and discovering that I am not as bad as I used to think and I can differentiate between masalas; doing my job and giving my 100% but also accepting that I cannot be everywhere all the time and it is ok to not have all the answers because frankly nobody does!

Musings of a bookworm

I am not an avid reader. There are times when I don’t even touch a book, there are times when I start reading a book and then leave it unattended for weeks, and then there are times when I cannot put down a book that I am reading and finish it off in a day or two. I have been asked often why I like to read, which I am sure a lot of book readers are asked as well. Is it the detailed description that movies cannot ever explain (book lovers will always begrudge the movies). Or is it something else?

I just read a heart wrenching book and I just had to talk about it, the book, the experience of reading, not this book but reading in general. Couldn’t have been a better time to talk about why I love to read so much.

I do not know how to appreciate movies, mostly the direction, the dialogues. It is just the story for me, which I may or may not relate to. The dialogues are mere lines spoken matter of factly. If they are complicated, deep, meaningful lines, it is most likely that I will not be quick enough to grasp that hidden meaning behind that line. So I will end up liking a movie if I resonate with the story and the characters (or if it is a thriller, I am sold). But books ! Ah, what can I say? You are at leisure to read, re-read a certain line. There is nothing there, no actress giving you the visual aid of expressions, no scenic beauty to get lost in. It’s just you and your imagination. You have to get into the details of imagining your character, their actions, demeanors, expressions. You are at a free will, yet the burden of how this experience will turn out lies on your shoulders. Going too fast may ruin it, so might going too slow. The perfect pace matters. Patience matters.

There are times when an author may write a book with such honesty that you just believe them. The characters are too good to be true, yet you believe them. You rejoice in their happiness, shed tears for their sufferings, you laugh and weep with them. Your heart longs to be with someone who does not exist. All the emotions that you have buried deep within yourself come right out. You live a life in those moments that is not yours and you get to see so much of this world through someone else’s eyes.

I used to read for the sake of reading at some point of time. Hurrying through the pages, skipping lines. More concerned about reaching the end rather than enjoying the journey and the experience (I blame you Agatha Christie for doing this to me with all the action happening in the last chapter). But then again, better late than never. I loved reading because it was a good past time and the stories were damn good! I think now I read because I love to get lost in a different world for a few days, living a different life. Next time I’ll learn how to appreciate movies and non-fiction better!

Rome

Rome was not built in a day, and that is the reason why it is impossible to see the entire Rome, to grasp the culture, to take in the complete beauty that this place has to offer, ever (and definitely not in a day !).

Since I have always gone to more conventional places like beaches and mountains for a vacation, vacationing in a city was a very different experience. I was skeptical too, whether the entire stay would be worth it, whether I would be able to cover all the important places in those few days or would I be left with 1-2 days on my hands with nothing much to do. Will I get bored of looking at the museums or get tired by walking too much? Many people suggested that Rome is not worth more than 2 days (3 days at max) but after being here, I think otherwise. I could have spent weeks over here.

I stayed in Rome for 4 days, in a hostel named “Legends”, situated at a 5 min walking distance from the Termini and metro stations, making the commute as easy as it could be, though for most of the time, I walked because everything was so close by and navigating using actual maps in the narrow streets was more fun.

Must visit places

Colosseum

It is not just an Amphitheatre, it is the biggest Amphitheatre in the world. Being a part of the many wars and politics of Rome has left it in ruins, yet it stands tall amidst its broken walls and has a lot of history to offer. Hosting gladiator fights for the whole city to watch, the seating mechanism designed so amazingly so as to accommodate thousands of people gracefully, and what not.
The queue around the Colosseum is huge so the tickets should either be bought online or a guide tour should be taken. The guide tour costs around 45 bucks, which includes Colosseum, Palatino and the Roman Forum. I found the guided tour worthy of the money as things became more interesting with a guide explaining the bits and pieces about this architecture marvel.

Roman Forum

One should go to see the Roman Forum if they visit Colosseum. The great rulers of Rome held their fort from here. Though it is in ruins too, but it is still a beautiful sight. It is surrounded by many Archs, which are usually built to symbolize victory.

Again, the guided tour made the experience a lot better. While going out, we caught a glimpse of a Christian wedding in the church situated just near the exit.

The Vatican City

There are three major stops in the Vatican City.
1. The Vatican Museum: Filled with paintings and sculptures, every turn is a different sight. Some part of the ceilings are painted in such a way that they look like carvings made out of plaster (3D effect). Many rooms are protected with curtains so that not even a single ray of sunlight can enter, because the paintings are sensitive to sunlight. There is a particular painting in which the eyes and feet of Jesus Christ follow you wherever you go.
2. The Sistine Chapel: The famous painting of Michalangelo, The Creation Of Adam, and many others of his artwork adorn the ceiling. You are not supposed to talk or click pictures here as it is the most sacred place of the Vatican City.
3. St. Peter’s Basilica: I cannot recall the number of chapels situated inside this Basilica but there was one wherever I looked. They have the remains of St. Peter and some other saints in the cellar.
Getting a guide here is worth here as well as it saves the time spent in queues and is more informative.

Pantheon

Situated in the middle of a very busy street, it sees a lot of rush because of that and also maybe because the entry is free. A Roma temple turned church, it is a religious place, thus hands and legs have to be covered while entering and while you are inside. We did not take the guided tour here but there are audio devices placed around the periphery. We read about a few facts online. Since it is a church, there was a chapel inside, and it was quite peaceful to be there.

There was a restaurant just across the Pantheon, where I had the best dish, called Gnocchi, of my entire trip.

Trevi Fountain

Legend says throwing a coin in this fountain brings you back to Rome, something I got to know after coming back from there. The place is mostly crowded and it was very difficult to sit near the fountain for some time so I preferred to watch it from a distance with a Gelato in hand, but the view was breathtaking, from everywhere.. Though I did not throw the coin, but I do intend to go back someday for sure.

Spanish Step

These famous steps are situated overlooking a busy street of the city. I went here twice, to take some rest after walking for long but they give such a romantic feeling. If you are lucky, you might find someone singing or playing music there. I have heard it’s an even prettier sight in spring.
Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of this place as I took the pictures while sitting on the steps but it was just peaceful to sit there and watch the streets downstairs.

View from the Spanish Steps

The innumerable Piazzas and streets

There are so many beautiful streets in this city, hustling and bustling with tourists, people singing and playing music, branded stores, ice cream parlors, restaurants. Piazzas are the city squares and there is one at every 10 minute walk. If you have nothing to do, nowhere to go to, and are out of plans, an entire day could be spent just roaming on the streets, eating Gelato, going into quaint little cafes and stores.

Try out these things

Wine. Wine. And More Wine

You cannot go to Italy and not have wine. I wish I drank more wine but being very tipsy would have deprived me of my amazing experience but having a glass of wine with food was almost a constant for me.

Gelato

If wine was not enough, there is a Gelato shop every 2 minutes with so many flavors.

Gnocchi

Gnocchi is nothing but a type of pasta, like Penne, Fusilli, but the one I had (right outside Pantheon) had the most amazing pasta sauce in the world (along with the cutest waiter serving it).

Pizza and Pasta, it goes without saying


Some learnings from my experience

BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS

The guide in Roman Forum had warned us, I was cautious all the time about mugging and was always avoiding dimly lit roads in the night. While trying to shop, I kept my bag down for 2 minutes, most likely the phone was on the seat as well, and went to stand in a mirror to look at the shoes I tried. That was all it took for someone to steal my phone. Fun fact, it happened in a Bata store, which is apparently not an Indian brand but still, it hurts.
Lesson learnt: Do not keep your stuff out of your sight for even a second, and if possible, just carry the important stuff like cash, passport and your phone in a small travel pouch and not huge backpacks/purses.

Avoid flights with huge layovers

The airline which took us from India to Italy (Milan) was Saudi Airlines. The plane was good and comfortable but the layover in Jeddah was for 10 hours while going and 16 hours while coming back. There was not much to do on the airport as well, except trying weird colored lipsticks.
Lesson learnt: Though it is necessary to save money by going for cheap airlines, a little splurging to make your travel comfortable is fine too.

Eurail Rocks

We had not booked any train tickets beforehand and in Milan, we faced a grave problem, booking train tickets on a short notice was around 120 Euro each. To make matters worse, the Forex card was not working at the time and there was not enough cash to cover the train expenses for the entire trip. We ended up buying a 4 Trip Eurail pass with the help of the customer service executive, which costs 160 Euros and then you just have to pay 10 Euros for every train ride (200 Euros in short).
Lesson learnt: Don’t panic if things get goofed up sometimes, take peoples’ help, have good amount of cash, but most importantly, no need to book everything ahead, just get the Eurail Pass 😀


I am definitely going to go back to this city once more in my life, and would probably stay for a longer time. I could not capture my entire personal experience in this post as it is huge, but if you want to read it, you can check it out here.

A more detailed and personal account on Rome

I have been thinking about writing this since I have been there, infact while I was there. Thanks to gazillion amount of work, I haven’t been able to get to it. But I don’t trust my memory cells anymore and have a feeling that I’ll start to forget everything if I don’t write this soon.

Even though I don’t want to keep out any details, I think it is impossible for me to write everything, and nobody is gonna wanna read an unnecessarily boring post so I’ll try to control my emotions and write the relevant things. But what the heck, this is my blog, so I will also write what I want to write! (There is also a shorter and concise version here )

10th October: We boarded our flight from Hyderabad to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) from the Saudia airlines. Unlike what we were told, the airlines did provide food and the seats were decent. There was a layover in Jeddah for about 10 hours, but the excitement of the trip kept us from sleeping. There was not much to do on the airport except trying weird colored lipsticks (read yellow and what not) on the airport. The flight from Jeddah to Milan was relatively VERY empty and we got the entire three seats to ourselves, each, and could finally get some sleep lying down.

11th October: From Jeddah to Milan, Milan to Rome
Landing in Milan felt so unreal. The airport wasn’t that busy, it was 6 am in the morning, we were sleepy AF. My expectation was that somehow everything would seem very different, would seem out of the world. It seemed like a normal airport, just cleaner, and with signboards in Italian as well. I had expected something to go wrong while reaching here, my worst fear was that our bags will be lost in transit (I am always afraid of that), but well that did not happen. Carrying our three trolleys and two backpacks, we were on our way to figure out how to reach Rome at 7.00 am in the morning. Before I forget, the immigration was a piece of cake, like literally. The immigration at Maldives airport had asked me more questions than what the Milan officer asked. We took a bus from the airport to Milan Centrale, the main railway station. We had checked online and apparently there were not a lot of trains to Rome but after reaching the station, we realised how untrue it was. There were trains in every 20 minutes to and from all the big cities of Italy. The only problem was they were really costly (like 120 Euro each), if not booked beforehand. Somehow our Forex card was not working, so panicking, we went to the customer service agent there and that agent suggested that we buy the Euro Rail pass for 4 trips. It was for 160 bucks, and then we had to pay 10 bucks for every trip so thankfully we were not going to get bankrupted. We finally boarded the train. The plan was to watch a movie but obviously we slept during the entire train ride.

Getting out of the Rome station, Milan seemed less fancy all of a sudden. The high buildings, the busy station, the sidewalks, the way the cars stopped for pedestrians! I was just smitten by anything and everything. Our hostel was at a 5 minute walking distance from the train station. We checked into the hostel and tried to get some sleep. It was around 1-2in the noon by then. I couldn’t sleep much. After trying to sleep for a few hours, we got ready and decided to head out. Though we were not sure how safe/unsafe the streets are at night! We asked the girl at the hostel reception about what would be a nice place to go at that time. She suggested a few places, which were two stations away from the metro. Boarding the metro was a challenge in itself. Sometimes I feel that when you are trying to do everything right, you make the most silly mistakes and end up doing everything wrong. Anyway, we took the metro from TERMINI to SPAGNA. The plan was to go to the Trevi Fountain. When we got out of the station, we were met by a completely different sight. This was the main street of Rome (or so it felt). There were so many people around, the street was crowded but yet beautiful. We used the maps in our phone and made our way to the Trevi Fountain. I ate a bombass huge gelato over there. After spending some 15 minutes trying to look at the fountain amidst all the rush, we headed for Piazza Del Popolo. It is so easy to just walk. The street that we had to take to reach the Piazza was no less than a fashion street. The shops, the clothes, I don’t know how it was possible for us to not spend all the money that we had and buy those amazing coats. Chatting and admiring, we finally reached the Piazza. It was pretty deserted but different.

We decided to go near the metro station and have dinner. We ordered a pizza and a bottle of wine (because there was no way on this earth that my first proper meal in Italy was going to be without wine). A little lost, a little tipsy, we made our way back to the metro station. I get really paranoid in such situations but after some wrong turns, some misread signs, we were there. There are these famous Spanish Steps there, which are just huge, well, steps. We sat there for some time and then came back home.

12th October: Colosseum, and places nearby
We had pizza and some beer from a place nearby and headed for the great Colosseum. Like I said, everything is so near, it was 2-3 metro stations away. We went from TERMINI to COLOSSEO this time. We were a little apprehensive about taking the tour guide but they are convincing enough and the line was too long so we took the tour guide. For 45 bucks each, they took us to Colosseum and Palatino, along with explaining the history. The way our tour guide explained the history of the Colosseum, I had no idea that I had any interest in history before that. But it made sense to have someone tell you about the history of a place otherwise you are just standing in a huge amphitheatre, you click a few pictures and then what? You wouldn’t have seen the place if you did not hear even a tiny bit about what and why and how of it.

There was a different guide for the Palatino. He had a different way of story telling but that was fun too. After that we spent some time in Palatino, looking at different ruins in the entire place. But it was almost 4 in the evening so we thought of going back to the hostel as we were very tired. While getting out of here, we caught a glimpse of a wedding (we have always been fascinated by Christian weddings). As we got out of our metro station, we though of exploring some new road around the station. And voila ! We discovered another grand street, at a walking distance from our hostel. All the pain from our legs was gone and we ended up walking on that street, window shopping for another 2 hours. We finally headed to our hostel, with a plan to get out after some time with warmer jackets. But once we went back, we didn’t want to move. We had some ready to eat food and a half empty bottle of wine so we decided to have that. It felt different to not eat pasta/pizza or a sandwich with only tomato for a filling for a change (we are vegetarians! )
Somehow the girls in our dorm were not very talkative or out going. And somehow they were always sleeping, when we were going out, when we were coming back. So we used to prefer sitting outside in the lobby. We started drinking the wine while sitting on the sofa, talking random shit, as usual. Abusing in hindi was not a problem at all as nobody around us could understand us. Somehow, when we were a little tipsy, we heard somebody abusing really loudly in Hindi and then two girls walked in to the apartment. Turns out, two Indian girls had been allotted our dorm sometime during that day, who were really drunk and really loud and finally we didn’t feel guilty for talking so loudly all the time.

13th October: The day I lost my phone
I got up really early in the morning because one of the loud Indian girl was video calling someone and calling her gorgeous and congratulating her. I think someone got engaged but I didn’t want to ask because I was internally abusing her for waking me up with the loud shouting. Tossing and turning, it was finally time to wake up. We did not have a particularly fixed plan that day but we had to go to Pantheon for sure and maybe some castle across the river. Today, we took a bus who dropped us somewhere at a walking distance to Pantheon. Everyday we were discovering something new about the infrastructure and public transport of Rome. Entry to Pantheon was free but they were a little strict about the clothes. Today, we did not get a guide and tried to listen to the audio boxes placed here and there but hard luck, everyone wanted to do the same and obviously there was a queue. So we googled a little and read. We roamed here and there after that, tried to click pictures, went inside a few shops. One particular shop was selling very cute stationary but somehow the mind convinces me to not spend so much money on things I’ll never use :/. Wandering, we reached the river. I had heard about it, the Vatican City was just across it. It felt like we could cover the entire city on foot if we were up for it. No wonder the Europeans are so fit, despite the cheesy food habits. The loud Indians girls had told us about a dish called Gnocchi, so we decided to have that for lunch. I am not gonna lie, it was one of the best meals I had during the entire trip. The waiter was cute, the Gnocchi was SO TASTY, the view was good, the feet were finally put to rest. We were sitting just across the Pantheon. After that, we decided to click some pictures. And then just went in the opposite direction, sort of towards the hostel and the road we had discovered last night. The plan was to end the day with shopping. On the way there, we came across a few more museums and a huge building, which we had seen the previous day from Colosseum. Curious, we went inside. Apparently there was a lift in the building which was so high that you could see the entire Rome. But we satisfied ourselves by just looking from the terrace of the building as the price and queue, both were too much for our taste. After a lot of wandering around, discovering new paths and getting excited to find that we were very close to the Colosseum, we headed for the street.

Before that, we spent some time at an ice cream parlor for a gelato. Then using my phone for navigation, we headed to the street. We went inside one shop and I tried a jacket. After that we went to a Bata store, yes we did. Apparently Bata is not Indian and so it didn’t feel as bad to go to Bata in Italy :P. We went to a few more shops after that and while we were trying some jacket, I realised I didn’t have my phone. I reached into my bag but knew it wasn’t there. We rushed out and traced back but the phone was nowhere. It was switched off as well. Bata was the only store where we had kept our stuff down for some time and gone away and I knew that that’s where it happened but we couldn’t really do much. I was crying my lungs out (why am I like this?). Aanchal was SO SUPPORTIVE the entire time. We called a few people and asked someone else to get the number blocked while we get an FIR in the police station. Well, the police kept sending us from one station to another, making us cover all the streets that we had not by now. We finally decided to go back as it was dark already and we were not familiar with the streets. We could not afford any more loses, to things or to us! So we came back, while I cried on the phone while talking to my parents, who were very supportive btw! All the pictures of that day were gone but well.

14th October: Vatican City
The first thing we did was to go the the TERMINI and get a new phone and SIM Card because I was going crazy without a phone. I bought the cheapest and most relevant phone I could. Thankfully, the new SIM they gave had better internet connection. Finally re-united with my dear old friend Instagram, I was ready to see the Vatican City. Entering a new part of the city, and soon to enter a new country, last night’s tragedy forgotten (partially), we were happy again. After getting down from the metro station, we booked a tour with one of the guides we met. Our tour was scheduled after 1 hour or so, so we got down to eat. With the recent experiment with Gnocchi, we decided to be daring and try something new again. So we ordered Carbonara. It was not bad, it was different, but not that good. It was finally time for the Vatican City. I had heard so much about it and had so many different images in my head, I was finally going to see it. After crossing many lines, and technically the border of a different county, we were in the Vatican City, the smallest country on earth. The first proper stop was the Vatican Museum. There were so many things there, from sculptures to paintings on the ceilings that looked like plaster work because of the 3D effect, eyes and feet on paintings that followed you wherever you went, paintings that could not be exposed to sunlight lest they degrade. The Sistine Chapel, where you had to keep quiet and just look at the painted ceiling. The St. Peter’s Basilica which was so huge and had the remains of some important people (including St. Peter, which we couldn’t even spot in the first go) in the cellar. We went to see a Castle St Angelo after that, but just outside the castle, a guy was playing keyboard and this was on the bank of the river, so we decided to skip the castle and just sat at the edge of the bridge, listening to the music, watching the people go by, the scenery around us and enjoying the last evening in the best city we ever went to! That night we just cooked a ready to eat Shahi Paneer we took with us with some ready to eat Rice. At night, we went to the Spanish Steps and the main street for some time.

The rest, to be continued!