Updated: 9 hours ago
12th October 2015
It was the day I arrived in Italy and there I was standing with fellow students who were still strangers to me, waiting for the clock to hit 8 a.m.
The plan was that three students from the university would take us on a city tour and show us around. Though I would have preferred to sleep for an hour more, my dorm mate Lavanya couldn’t stop knocking on my door from 6:30 a.m. I don’t know if she was insecure to travel alone or was panicking on her first day in the city but she couldn’t help herself from waking me. Freshening up, we tied our ponytails, wore thick coats and put on our fancy boots to start our morning. In a hurry, we reached about twenty minutes early but so did many other freshers. In the cold, cursing myself, I stood at the city centre, just waiting for the clock to reach eight.
At last, the clock-hand on the arch in the city centre reached five minutes to 8 and two guys and a girl showed up. That’s when I first met Sebastian who was the only Indian among the three. After a brief outline of the trip, we started as the sun intruded the grey clouds and lit the city. We visited the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Venezia, the Pantheon and the university campus where we got to see the numerous museums that were both in the university and spread all over the city. We visited the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel along with the Vatican Museum. We got to see the Tiber River flowing through the city with some beautiful vantage points from the flyovers and the bridges.
By the end of our journey, the intention to get familiarised with the city just worked a little for me. I felt Rome was neither big nor small and this trip helped me get comfortable with the idea of calling the place my home for the years to come. After spending nearly two hours with members who started a year before us, we were taken to Spanish Steps. It was supposed to be the last part of the trip and from there, we were set to disperse.
Walking through the streets built by cobblestones, our gang reached the Spanish Steps - a set of 138 steps, originally built to link the Spanish embassy to the Holy See at the base, to the church of Trinità dei Monti at the top. The charm of the place had mesmerised me and right there in front of the monumental church that captured every person’s attention was when I first saw my man.
He stood there waiting for Sebastian who was his only friend at the time.
I still remember it as if it happened just yesterday. A six-foot-tall guy stood at a distance wearing round glasses, light blue jeans, a red hoodie, black sports shoes glancing at all of us.
Since Lavanya and I tagged along with Seby the whole trip, with him being the relatable Indian in the group, he introduced us to his friend Karan. He invited us to join them for some coffee, cornetti - which are Italian croissants with chocolate or pistachio fillings, & sparkling water. I recall how I was starving after the trip and jumped at accepting the invite. As we settled down on a table for four, I sat facing this tall guy we had just met.
At first sight, I thought Lavanya and Karan would make a terrific couple but how things change. Taking a bite from a cornetto, Karan asked, “So I often ask Seby this question but he never gives me a proper answer. So I’m asking you, Supriya, is Jesus the son of God, the God or the messenger of God?”
Seby straight out laughed maybe because that was the last of all questions he expected Karan would ask to start the conversation. For a moment, I even thought Karan might not be serious but he was genuinely interested. However, I didn’t have a proper answer either. So, I replied, “He could be whatever you wish to perceive him to be.”
Before anything, Lavanya asked, “How could that be possible?”
And Sebastian remarked, “The same way Shiva is perceived as destroyer and protector.”
That’s it. Both Karan and Lavanya got defensive and were ready to pounce. Not wanting to start our first encounter on such a note, I remarked, “Should we really spend our time arguing about fictional characters on our first meeting?”
Though Lavanya didn’t want to give up, she noticed Karan’s smile and didn’t say a word. What was so beautiful was that cold morning, neither Lavanya nor I knew we met the men with whom we were to share the rest of our lives.
This novelette is available as a paperback & ebook.