I am going to go ahead and say it ‘I lucked out!’

My husband and I had to cross several cultural barriers to start understanding each other. I may have mentioned in my earlier blogs, we had several disagreements at the initial stages of our relationship. It was mainly due to our cultural differences. One big divide was how we expressed our feelings for each other.

I grew up in a semi conservative, protected environment where voicing your feelings was frowned upon. In romantic movies, two flowers coming close together was symbolic of the intimacy shared by the protagonists. A lot of silent, amorous  messages were passed through eyes. I grew up with the romantic notion that if my partner really loved me, there would be no need for words to communicate, he should be able to read my mind through my looks, decipher my expressions and know what I mean. This notion, in my particular case, flopped. My husband, I am sure, wanted to bang his head in frustration, because he didn’t understand why I was mad at him…again. ‘Tell me, please, what did I do wrong this time?’ Finally, I realized the power of words! Now I let him have it (exaggerating a bit) , he probably wants those days of silent treatment back.

He, on the other hand, embarrassed me numerous times in front of my immediate and extended family by professing his love for me openly. My parents and my uncles and aunts were uncomfortable at this display of verbal affection. My cousins and friends loved this novelty, they were amused and somewhat perplexed at the same time. I reminded him often not to verbalize in front of people how much he is in love with me, it was simply not done in India (this was almost 16 years ago)! The poor man, a white guy from a different culture and country, was desperate to reassure my family that his intentions about me were honest. He was also trying to fit in but in the wrong way.

Although, I pleaded with him not to make comments like ”Oh she is beautiful’ when one of my cousins said ‘she is too thin’ I liked
them. I felt cherished when he told my family and his family how much I mean to him, while I still cringed outwardly. Slowly, I changed too. After being married to him, I realized it is actually a wonderful and honest feeling when I acknowledged that I love my husband. India, has opened up a lot more when it comes to the matter of heart, but when I go back I still notice some reticence in admitting ‘Yes, I am in love with my spouse. Yes, I am lucky. Yes, s/he is handsome or beautiful!’

On Facebook, some dear friends (all Indian) were discussing what qualities they love in a man. Sense of humor, sensitivity, intellect, charm et all. After going through the posts, I realized, these were
the qualities, I, too, looked for in a man when I was a young woman. And I found them all in my husband. I mentioned that in the chat. I said, ‘I looked for all that in a man too, I got lucky!’ I was subjected to some good-natured ridicule for that. I was amused at the reaction, it seemed appreciating one’s spouse was still not a ‘done’ thing amongst many.

A couple of days later, I saw a post of one of my American friends where she said how lucky she was to have a wonderful husband and how much she appreciates what he does for her and how special he makes her feel. I know the couple very well, one can see the love and friendship they share. She was not ashamed or embarrassed to let the world know that she loves and appreciates her spouse. Her post made me smile.

I come from a country which has many things to offer to the world. My country is rich in heritage which I am proud to carry and hopefully pass on to my children. I have also had the good fortune to adopt a country which has a lot to offer and teach the world. Here, I have learnt, amongst other things, to appreciate another human, my spouse in this case, and not be ashamed to admit that I lucked out the day we chose each other and decided to spend our lives together. Life is a journey, people say. On this journey we can leave that we don’t need, and pick up new lessons that will make this journey, if not smoother, at least more beautiful and joyful. What is more joyful than to admit that the one who is walking by my side on this journey is the most special person to me? Why on earth should I not say it?


Lovely! Does it HAVE to be fair?

Will you all please join me in raising our fists in the air and shouting ‘Gender equality!!! Finally!!’ A fairness cream company has come up with a fairness cream for men and it promises results in just four weeks of usage. Say goodbye to the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ good looks! That is so yesterday! Today’s mantra is ‘fair and handsome!’ I should have been happy reading this. It deals with the double standard that Indian society has – women have to be fair to be considered a beauty, yet men? Well, they are men, right? The sex itself makes them a step above! Nothing else matters or should matter. Now, they have to be fair to be considered beauti…oops, handsome. That’s politically correct.

I have never quite understood the fairness fetish in India and the other Asian countries. I have seen and have been subjected to good-natured ridicule about skin color. It hurt in the teenage years when one really likes to be admired for their physical attributes. But as I became older and wiser, I became optimistic that as India opened up to the world more, it would realize that the average skin tone of Indians is actually an enviable attribute amongst many in the fair-skinned population. People would also realize that skin color is something in your genes. You can take care of it, keep it blemish free as much as you can, but it would be difficult to change your skin tone. I understood that the concept of ‘fair skinned beauty’ is deep-rooted and will take time to completely disappear. The cinema, the media, the music all play to the concept ‘fair skin equates beautiful’. Hindi songs warn women not to go out in the sun, not because one will get skin cancer but the skin will darken – ‘Dhoop mein nikla na karo roop ki raani, gora rang kaala na ho jaye!’ I was told, many times, not to drink tea. Tea will affect the liver, mal functioning of liver will darken my skin further, my prospects of marrying, already low, will dwindle. You get the logic? It may be appropriate to mention a personal experience here. I went for an interview for a sales job in a renowned air conditioning company, right out of college. The job I was interviewing for entitled selling air conditioners in the sweltering heat of Kolkata. The manager, after looking at me and my resume, asked if I was up for this kind of job since my skin would darken under the sun and I would have trouble attracting a mate with my darkened skin. I didn’t even realize how inappropriate the comment was at the time, I was brain washed since childhood that dark is bad, hence the comment seemed normal. I am still embarrassed that I didn’t protest such mindset then. There are exceptions, but they only prove the rule, unfortunately. However, the eternal optimist that I am, I hoped this perception would fade away as my ‘shining India’ shone brighter.

Then I read this recently: “While these ads (apart from boosting the sales of the products), have invited flak for promoting insecurity and discrimination among women, the latest to join the long list of fairness products is something that can be described as ludicrous at best. The product, that has sparked an online debate, is a fairness cream for women’s private parts!

The ad, that went on-air some time back, has been described by the online world as the “ultimate insult to women”. It shows a Katrina Kaif look-alike who has a glum expression on her face, as her husband is more interested in the newspaper than in her. But once she cleans herself up (with that product), she suddenly becomes the object of his affections. The Twitterati is buzzing with comments slamming these products. “This is the ultimate insult. Skin whitening for your vagina,” Rupa Subramanya tweeted. While @ThePunjew, wrote, “What a bummer, there’s no shade card yet to monitor fairness progress!”

The above excerpt is from an article in The Times of India ‘Outrage over fairness cream for private parts’. ‘A new TV ad for a personal hygiene cream, that promises ‘fairer’ private parts for women, has been slammed by netizens.’

Fairness cream is a disgrace, I think. It is demeaning and insulting, to say the least, to women and now men. Some of the famous film personalities have refused to endorse tobacco and alcohol advertisements, yet many movie icons continue to appear and endorse fairness creams. I agree fairness cream doesn’t inflict the same amount of damage in one’s body as tobacco and alcohol but how about the mind? How about society? How about dowry that the grooms ask for a dark-skinned bride? I have watched with amazement as a father joked about how he has set aside a huge sum of money for dowry for his dark-skinned daughter. He joked, ‘When the groom’s family mentions her darkness, I will hand them the first bundle of rupees, when they mention her nose, I will hand them the second bundle!’ All this in front of the girl, who sat there with a slight smile on her face. Isn’t this SOMEWHAT akin to selling the girl, her skin tone, her features?

I spoke to an amazingly beautiful model whose only regret in life was her dark skin. She wishes to be fairer in the next life. ‘What are you talking about? You are beautiful!’ I told her, amazed. ‘Nah, I am too dark!’ Her response. When a baby is born in a family, the question about his/her skin color is asked at the same time as whether s/he is healthy. If the baby happens to be dark-skinned, the comments generally are ‘The color is dark BUT the features will be good.’ I am waiting for the BUT to change to AND! When my babies were born, the hope amongst many of my friends and family were the children get my white husband’s skin tone! I still remember a question asked after Ryan’s birth, by a friend’s mother, ‘The baby is like Sean, I hope? Fair skinned?’

The pancake make up ladies lather on their faces to whiten them is very disheartening. Glowing skin of any hue is beautiful, unnatural white skin is not! I was subjected to such makeup during my Indian wedding, much to the dismay of my white husband. ‘What have they done to you?’ He exclaimed. ‘Color equality for the day, darling. Deal with it!’ I said.

I recently spotted a popular fairness cream in an Indian grocery store in the US. I was disappointed to see the fairness fetish has transcended geographical boundaries. The store owner told me the sale of the product is very high. To me, that was surprising. I started appreciating my skin color more after I came to this country where people pointed to my arms and said, ‘That is what WE want.’ Hence the tanning salons, hence the sun bathing. I thought Indians would feel proud of their naturally tanned skin color but many seem to want the fair skin of the Caucasians. Entry fairness creams. Hackneyed but true, the grass truly is greener on the other side.

Bottomline: India, please wake up and smell the coffee. The mindset regarding fairness, instead of improving, is taking a terrible, demeaning, sadly humorous turn. It is invading the privacy of women. Spend more money on gynecological check ups to prevent ovarian cancer, educate women on women’s health and check for breast cancer. Please do not worry about the COLOR of women’s privates. There are so many more things in the world to worry about. Do trust me on this one!

A ‘BANG’ doesn’t necessarily mean a tire blow-out!

I was literally laughing all the way to the bank, on a sunny, beautiful day in Baltimore. I was going to deposit my paycheck, happy to get out of my office during lunch break, I had a spring to my steps. The sun was on my face, the bitter winter was over, the air had the promise of spring. If only my husband was in town, my happiness would have been complete. But he was in Ghana. As I walked across the street to get on the block of my bank, I heard a loud bang. I instantly thought “Oh, some poor guy just had a tire blow out!” All of a sudden, I saw people in suits and ties running towards me, I looked around and realized there were at least 5 or 6 police cars. I was puzzled, and then another bang. This time I saw a police officer run toward me, with his gun drawn, as he took cover behind a police car, he yelled at me, “GET BACK, LADY, GET BACK!!!’ Things were happening so fast around me that my poor brain wasn’t sending messages to the other parts of my body fast enough. I couldn’t move, I stood there, in the middle of a side-walk, by myself, with my arms crossed across my chest, hoping I wouldn’t get shot in the chest. By that time, I had figured out that those loud bangs were no tire blow outs. For some strange reason, I thought if I got shot in the chest it would be very gruesome, so I had my arms protectively around it. Strange how we all react in emergency situations! A bank was getting robbed while I was skipping to MY bank on that sunshiny, gorgeous day, happy to be young and alive. The bank robbers shot a couple of rounds before fleeing. I was the only one standing in the middle of the road, my arms covering my chest and probably my eyes closed. Must have been quite a scene. My friends in the bank yelled at me to go in there, I found my wits and willed my legs to move. We were cordoned off for half an hour, I called my work to let them know I was stuck. Once they let us go, I sauntered back without giving the incident much thought. As I entered my work place, my colleagues gathered around me ‘Are you ok?’ ‘How awful!’ ‘Do you want to go back home?’ I started to shiver then, thinking I could have been seriously injured that day, or even worse, killed!

I love almost everything about Baltimore. The city has a character of its own. It is not classy like Boston, or cosmopolitan like New York. It is in a league of its own, though. It has a down home, genuine feeling, a warmth that I love! I love the people here with their ‘believe Hon’ attitude, the bee hive, hair-sprayed hair, the fancy nails which I think is no less than any intricate art work, the funky looking crab statues in every nook and cranny of the city. The Charm city has its own charm, for sure. The crime, however, is a problem. A big one!

We lived on the top story of a 3 story house on a relatively safe and very funky street of Baltimore. I walked back from work late at night and never felt threatened. My husband got catcalls from time to time, but not me! And I learnt, eventually, not to take it personally! It wasn’t me, it was just my gender! Anyway, one evening, only a few days after the shoot out incident, I heard a lot of sirens! Since the sirens were just an integral part of the city sounds of Baltimore, I didn’t pay much attention, till they got louder and louder, and seemed to culminate at the doorstep of our building. Sean was still in Ghana. I ran to the window to see an extremely drunk man sitting at the stoop of our building with a loaded gun. The police were in the process of extricating the gun from the man and unloading it. I snatched the phone and dialed my mother-in-law. I just had to share the exciting moment with somebody. I continued to give her the running commentary, ‘Now the Police have their guns drawn, they approached the guy, they are taking his gun, he is in handcuffs….’ and such like, while she kept telling me sternly ‘Get away from the window, NOW!’

My husband called the next day to find out how his newly wed bride was surviving, a relative newcomer to a new country! ‘How are you doing?’ he asked. ‘Well, lets see…. I was in the middle of a shoot out the other day and there was a guy holding a gun on our stoop last night. Other than that, I am doing fine, babe. When are you coming home???’

Confessions of a facebook addict while in rehab!

In a moment of insanity, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. I gave myself a deadline when I will sever my connection with the Facebook world…for a while! Strangely, I was excited and nervous about it at the same time. I was excited that I will be free of the constant desire to check on everybody’s business and sad that I will miss the fun banter and often times the serious exchange of ideas that I had grown to enjoy so much.

My trip to Rome was an eye opener. I stayed away from the internet and Facebook for seven days. Since I was spending my every waking moment exploring, enjoying, experiencing Rome, I didn’t miss Facebook. But how would it be in my real life where I am often bogged down by chores, responsibilities, decisions? Connecting with friends on Facebook was like a breath of fresh air for me. But the problem was, the breath of fresh air had become a violent storm. I felt constantly drawn to the iPad or the computer to check if anybody wrote back on my status update or how many comments did I get on my picture? Facebook sometimes exposed my follies and often times triggered my thinking brain which stays dormant mostly as I switch laundry or mow the lawn. It was a huge, happy time sucker. My folly, I realized, is vanity. I choose the ‘good’ pictures to share with my friends on Facebook. I check how many likes I got on my updates. At the same time, the non confrontational me finds enough courage online to comment on issues I feel strongly about. Facebook is like a fantasy world full of laughter and camaraderie. I started living in the fantasy world while my real world started collapsing around me.

Mother’s day morning was special. After the usual excitement of handmade cards, gifts, hugs, cuddles, Sahana, Ryan and I just sat in the living room for an ordinary chat. I didn’t have my iPad, Sahana didn’t have her iTouch. She said, “This is just wonderful. We are sitting together and looking at each other. We never do this. We are either working, or studying or at sports or on our computers/ipads/itouch. We should take at least an hour each day to do just this – chat!” Ryan was lying on the couch, he piped in his philosophical input, “I am the only free person here. Mommy is always on her iPad, daddy is on his computer and Sahana is on her iTouch. I am the only one who is free, the only one with a life!”

I left for Rome in the afternoon. But I carried little Ryan’s words in my heart. It came back to me again and again as I roamed the streets of Rome. Without my cell phone, my iPad or my computer, I was completely disconnected from the world-wide web. I was free. I came back home and plunged right back into social networking, posting pictures of my trip, writing blogs and posting them, checking often to see the comments and stats. Life resumed, chores piled up and I escaped into my virtual life, laughing, bantering, reading poetry, exchanging ideas on important issues, being armchair analyst. My virtual life was brimming with happiness and friends. My real life? Well…if a day had 36 hours, I would have been fine. But it doesn’t and I wasn’t fine. I decided to deactivate and focus on things that were important.

Resistant to change, I pooh poohed Facebook when it was first mentioned to me couple of years ago. “I am never getting on it, that’s not who I am, I am a private person”, I said. My best friend from college didn’t let go. She connected with old friends, people were asking for me. Those magical college days, those inseparable friends – I was sold. The first few months, for me, were full of new discoveries, of reunions, joy of connecting with old friends, sharing my story and hearing theirs. I was often chanting “Facebook zindabad” (long live Facebook) online and off. But without my knowledge, things started getting out of control.

So one fine morning, I chatted briefly with friends, went to my account settings, my fingers shook for a few seconds over the ‘deactivate’ button and I touched it. I felt a strange sensation of severing connection with a fantasy world where I was loved and wanted. I am loved a lot in my real world too, but in the Facebook world that feeling of being loved is quite palpable, it’s there, out in front of you, in written words! That’s paradoxical, don’t you think? Palpable love in a virtual world? I make it sound dramatic but the sense of loss was real. It was done!

I was surprised though, to realize that with the sense of loss there was also a sense of unfettered glee. Freedom from my self-inflicted imprisonment in the unreal world of Facebook. On the first day, I got so much done, the feeling of being productive was exhilarating. At night, I started missing my friends. I was sad to think I would wake up the next morning and won’t say a cheery good morning to the friends with my morning cup of coffee.

Day 2 was miserable. I was moping around the house constantly thinking of the people I left behind in my virtual world. I had forced my husband to hold a wager that I won’t go back for at least two weeks. The fear of losing out to him kept me from running to the computer and logging myself back on, but oh, I was sad! I haven’t had any experience with kicking an addiction, but on ‘Day 2’, I got a clear idea of what people go through during withdrawal. At the same time, I felt good about being strong at resisting the urge.

Day 3 was much better. Facebook was loosening its hold on me. I was thinking and focusing on things at hand more instead of rushing through chores to get back on the site. I sat and read with Ryan, focusing only on the little body nestled to me while he read. I listened to Sahana focusing only on her words and making a mental note where and when to drop her off and pick her up. She mostly talks to me as her personal taxi driver as her social life and school life is buzzing with activities. I completed my chores on time, read a few pages, wrote a few words, the ‘pre Facebook me’ was back.

This distance was important for me, not only to get a control over my addiction to social networking, but also to get a perspective on why I spent so much time on it. I still love what Facebook world has to offer – some wonderful, like-minded friends, uncomplicated relationships, heartfelt laughter, food for thoughts but it also showed me I can get on Facebook on my terms. I will go back to it, I miss my friends too much not to. But I know I can cut back my time on it. If I feel myself slip sliding back into the same addiction, I will do the same – hover over the deactivate button, my fingers shaking and finally touch it to sever connection temporarily, with a feeling of deja vu. I learnt a lesson about myself, through something as trivial as Facebook, that I actually do have self-restraint. It’s a good feeling.

Amor! Some call her Roma! Day 6 and homeward bound.

Sean had the final day off. We were about to experience Rome for the day, together. After our usual breakfast of croissants, coffee, cereal in huge quantity (Sean) served by a sweet, smiling Italian lady at the hotel, we walked from our hotel to a vibrant, open air market place in Campo dei Fiori. Fruit and vegetable vendors lay their produce in an attractive array. The entire place looked lively and colorful with bright red tomatoes, shiny cherries, green leafy vegetables. Pasta sellers spread out their pastas in a colorful display. Trinket sellers had their earrings, necklaces, murano glass jewellery out attractively to lure customers to their stalls. And lure they certainly did, I couldn’t resist their charm, broke down and bought a charm bracelet. I wore it right away and looked at it admiringly from time to time as we walked towards the Basilica of St. Peter’s.

Sean is not the kind of guy to stand in line. For him, Rome is special for its ambiance – the narrow cobble-stoned alleys, the little quaint shops, the ancient feel of the city, the Jewish quarter, the mysterious stairways leading to gorgeous doors, ancient ruins dotted all over the city, the walks along river Tiber, the food and the romance in the air. He would rather walk indeterminately enjoying the sights and sounds of Rome than stand in line to enter the Colosseum, the Vatican or the Roman Forum (the line to get tickets to enter the forum can be pretty long). Since this was his only day off, I gave him the freedom to choose our destination. I was just happy to be with him! If he was writing the blog, however, he would strongly disagree to the ‘freedom to choose’ bit. I desperately wanted to see the Castel Sant’ Angel, so I couldn’t help interject such lines from time to time ‘You know, we should see the inside of Castel Sant’ Angel sometime, I haven’t been inside the castle yet!’ But then quickly qualified the statement with ‘I am not telling you what to do, it was just a suggestion!’

After a while, Sean played along with “So, what should I plan to do again? Should I plan to go see the inside of Castel Sant’ Angel?” You guessed it, we ended up in the Castle of Angels!

This was built on Tiber river by King Hadrian and then converted into a military fortress. It is named after the archangel Michael at the entrance to the museum.

Archangel Michael
At the top of the Castle.
A view of the Basilica from the terrace of the Castle.

In the evening, we decided to truly get lost in the interconnected narrow, mysterious, ancient looking alleyways of beautiful Rome. We walked the streets aimlessly, without a clue or purpose. We saw some treasures hidden in these little lanes, some unknown yet ornately decorated churches, back of a beaten up dilapidated house made beautiful by fragrant, bright flowers, old arch bridges, moss-covered steps leading to gorgeous doorways, little cafes and gelatarios.

At the cost of never getting an advertisement offer from McDonald’s for my blog site, I must admit that I shuddered at the sight of these golden arches in Rome. For me it was akin to blasphemy, the presence of the fast food chain in the land of leisurely dining and delicious cuisine. But soon, due to the dearth of public restrooms in Rome, my feeling changed from horror to reassurance at sighting of McDonald’s. It did wonders for my peace of mind. Enough of bathroom talk, moving on.

We bought some gifts at a souvenir shop for my parents and the children who were becoming very real to me with every passing minute. I was missing them. I was ready to go home. We went back to Trastevere area for a dinner of spaghetti alla amatriciana (spaghetti with bacon and tomato sauce) and ended the evening with canoli with chocolate chips. Our last gelato for a while.

I want to mention that I probably ate bacon almost every day during my stay in Rome, either in my pizza or my pasta. I don’t eat much bacon back home. The health freak in me makes me buy the leanest bacon possible. I find it tasteless. The bacon, in Rome, was the real deal with fat dripping off them on my shirt and probably clogging my artery as I write this journal! But I didn’t care. That was the joy of being on vacation. I knew this was short-term, I could afford to be indulgent, I could afford to eat fatty bacon, I could afford to eat dessert every day (one day even twice). That feeling made this Roman Holiday memorable, dream like.

Last night, I went to bed truly content. Amidst all the happy moments I have had in my life, my time in Rome just got included in the list. I had a happy time, carefree, stress free, free from the shackles of schedule. But I was ready to go back and take charge again. On the flight back home, between watching four movies back to back, I pondered a little bit about the ‘connected’ life I led. I honestly felt, I need to disconnect a bit to connect more with the people who matter to me the most. Between the schedules and running around, focusing on one particular thing was becoming rarer for me. While I read with Ryan, my mind was already planning where I had to be the next day and when. While listening to Sahana’s middle school woes, part of my focus was on the half filled milk jar and whether that would last till breakfast. Whatever little time I had in between, I spent it on the net chatting with friends so my mind didn’t wander on the mundane chores. The net, for the lack of better words, had become my escape from my busy, schedule filled life. I wanted to change that.

My Roman Holiday ended. But the feel of it stayed with me. I wrote these blogs so when the memory starts to fade and I need some sustenance and a breath of fresh air, I can come back to these and relive the days. Thank you all for reading and being a part of my holiday. Signing off!

Amor! Some call her Roma! Day five.

My plan for today was to cover the Basilica of St. Peter’s and Castel Sant’ Angelo. But the Castel Sant’ Angelo didn’t work out. I wanted to go up to the dome and cupola of St. Peter’s to see Rome, once again, from the top of the world. From my hotel, I leisurely walked towards the Vatican, ¬†arrived at the courtyard around 9:30 am and discovered that the line to enter was a mile long. First inclination was to turn away but then I thought of The Pieta. I was leaving Rome in a couple of days, I had to say my last goodbye to her. I have been inside the Basilica innumerable times. Our hotel during our last visit to Rome many moons ago, was a mere 10 minutes walk from the Basilica. I came whenever I felt overwhelmed or tired to escape into the cool interiors of this beautiful church. But it never grew old for me. I always seemed to find one sculpture or one mosaic that I had missed before. I am not knowledgeable enough to do full justice to this sacred monument of the Catholics, but I do love the architecture, the sculptures and the mosaics. I also love the feeling of stepping into an old world as I cross the threshold of the church. I simply have to will the crowd away and they fade away for me till a hard shove of a push bring me back to reality.

The majestic St. Peter’s Basilica

I waited in line for an hour and a half to gain entry. My love for people watching makes these long waits bearable and sometimes even enjoyable. Moreover, the wait was just means to an astounding, beautiful, simply fascinating end. That thought sustained me.

Peace! Jesus!
She is the reason I endure long lines.

Once the security check was done and I was deemed safe enough to enter St. Peter’s, I made my way to the ticket counter to buy a ticket to go up to the dome. It was 7 euros to take the elevator and 5 euros to take the stairs. I am ashamed to admit that I opted for the elevator to go up to the cupola.

The interior of the dome from the top of the cupola in Basilica of St. Peters.
The shrine from the top of the cupola.
A mosaic on the wall of the cupola.

We had to climb 342 extremely narrow stairs up to the dome. I was very happy to discover that I could get up those stairs without breaking much of a sweat. All those harrowing hours at the gym had paid off.

The very narrow staircase going up to the top.

The view from up top was worth the effort.

View from the dome.

The view of the courtyard from up top.
Narcissism. There is a mirror up top to take your own picture with the background.

After paying homage to The Pieta and whispering my farewell, I swung my bags on my shoulders and started the long hike back home. It was getting late in the afternoon, so postponed the trip to Castel Sant’ Angel till the next day. As I walked back contemplating which kind of pizza to eat for lunch I heard a woman’s voice calling my name. I turned around surprised. Who could know me in the city of Rome! Took my shades off and saw the smiling face of a school friend from Kolkata, India, whom I hadn’t seen for the last twenty years! She was touring Europe with her husband and two girls. Meeting a friend from my girlhood days in the city of Roma!!! We squealed, we hugged, we talked at the same time, we squealed again, asked about each other, hugged again and said “Can you believe it? I can’t believe it!” fifty-nine times! My friend’s good-natured husband stood there with an indulgent smile, and occasionally looked around to give apologetic smiles to the pedestrians who stared at our display of emotions. The girls took pictures.

In the evening, Sean and I strolled down Via Del Cerechi and ended up at the Colosseum. The sun was setting, the last rays fell on the anicient amphitheater and illuminated the ruin to its full glory. Although part of the history of the Colosseum is full of blood and human suffering yet the magnificence of it does evoke respect and awe for the strength and power of the ancient Romans.

In front of the Colosseum in the evening of our 5th day.

We decided to explore the night life of Trastevere. Like a typical man, Sean claimed he knew a short cut from the Colosseum to Trastevere, but that involved climbing the thousand (exaggerating) steps of The Capitoline hill. Once we were up there, he realized there was no short cut, we needed to go back down and go the usual way. I had already climbed 342 steps in the morning to reach the cupola, I threw that fact in his face and demanded a double gelato right away as a reward for huffing and puffing up more steps to satisfy male vanity of not asking for directions.

Trastevere didn’t disappoint. After a delicious meal of spaghetti with tomato sauce, olives, capers, tuna and anchovies, we headed towards the Piazza of Santa Maria. Musicians and artists were getting ready to entertain tourists and diners at the open air pizzerias, restaurants and cafes. Sean’s colleague had shown him the best little dessert place, Churi Churi, to get cannolis (Sean’s favorite) and my gelato. Sean got a canoli with plain sweet ricotta cheese, I got a gelato called canolini with fresh cream on top. It was frozen sweet ricotta cheese with crushed canoli mixed in. It was one of the most delicious flavors I have ever tasted! I immediately planned to get the same the next evening, my last in Rome.

After roaming endlessly in the narrow alleyways and neighborhoods of Trastevere, enjoying the funky, artsy shops, innumerable open air restaurants, dessert and gelato places, artists, entertainers, dancers, musicians, we headed back to our dear old Hotel Arenula. While crossing Tiber, I caught this in my camera.

Back at the hotel, while I was looking through the pictures in my camera, Sean asked if I wanted to skype with the children.

Children??? What children???

Day six will be one of losing myself with Sean in the city of Rome, and maybe Castel Sant’ Angelo, if I can convince my husband!