In the candlelight, I couldn’t stop looking into her twinkling eyes while sitting across from her on a romantic cold evening. Her beautiful eyes often expressed so much more than her words did and on that special evening, she couldn’t stop showing me how happy she was about my achievement. What I loved the most was that she didn’t even say, “Congratulations!” I mean, why would she? It was her success too as much as it was mine. On that pleasant evening, I was finally relieved of the responsibility that I had accepted when I stepped into this foreign land referred to as Italia. I was finally a graduate in the field of Computer Science from the Sapienza University of Rome and it had taken me three years to get to that point. Though the journey wasn’t easy, I hadn’t just earned a degree but also met the girl who struck my heart with her thunder.
Sipping wine as we sat outside the Italian restaurant under a big fancy umbrella, I was rethinking if it was the right time.
On one hand, there was a part of me that said, “You have been in a relationship for two years now. It's time to pop the question!”
On the other hand, there was this fear about how she would respond. Even though I was fond of her and I was certain about her feelings for me too, I was really nervous about how she would respond if I asked her about marriage. Especially considering how her parents set such a poor example.
Looking at my formal shirt with rolled-up shirtsleeves and a folded tie in my left pocket, I thought my attire wasn’t helping in making this situation as perfect as I had wanted it to be. To be fair, I wore the same shirt for my thesis defence that afternoon and we met that evening to have dinner and celebrate the night as planned.
Even though I loved the Windsor Knot she tied before my presentation, both of us agreed that we couldn’t go to dinner with me wearing my tie and overly formal blazer. As I was preoccupied with my thoughts, I felt her hand on the top of mine on the table and with her raised eyebrows, she asked if everything was okay.
Looking at her, I just smiled and her lips widened to return a smile. Everything seemed perfect and I wanted to halt time if I could and never let that moment pass. When I started in this land filled with blue skies, historical landmarks, incessant rains and extremely hot summers at times years ago, there wasn’t much hope that I would even complete my course. I felt underqualified back then and every step seemed like rowing against the tide just to fail.
But having her in my life turned things around completely and I started enjoying every moment of my existence. How times change! How perceptions change! When I was dispirited because of all the big life changes and the lack of social life, in the beginning, my father always kept saying, “Life is ever-changing. Do not forget to live through all experiences and never carry any regrets.”
He couldn’t be more right. As a clueless youngster, dinner in a restaurant was not just beyond my budget but a privilege I thought I didn’t deserve. After the shift in my perspective, it became more of a need to taste different cuisines and appreciate what every culture had to offer.
For a while, we sat holding hands while feeling the warmth of the candle until we bid goodbye to the place that served us for the evening. Still holding hands, as she leaned her head on my shoulder, we walked by the banks of the Tiber river that runs through the city of Rome.
In the moonlight, as teenagers howled in happiness walking in groups and trees danced to the winds dropping their leaves, we walked to her place that was three lanes away from the restaurant. As we walked, a thought crossed my mind: if it wasn’t for her, how would my life be? As I firmly held her hand and she raised her head to look at me.
Both of us stopped and she looked at me with a smile, she pinched my cheek before we continued our walk in the moonlight. On the cold night as we walked to her place, I finally mustered some courage to tell her what I was meaning to tell her that entire evening. Holding both her hands, I whispered, “Supriya, will you…”
Looking at her, I couldn’t say a word more. Taking a step forward, she planted a lovely kiss before saying, “Yes!”
II: Her Perception 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.
III: His Assertion 27th January 2019
Looking at the hills and dead trees passing by, being dressed by snow that was descending from the dark skies, as I was resting in the train, I couldn’t help but relive the ethereal experience from the day before. The music, the church and the attire of everyone in the chamber. God, that’s how it should be done if you ask me. The elegance and class in the event were unparalleled and the bride and bridegroom felt like they were made for each other. Our train was rushing from Florence to Rome with an hour delay, I still could not get over it. Supriya was listening to songs sitting right in front of me with her eyes closed. Though she kept complaining before the trip that she will be losing an entire week during her thesis and would only like to attend at the weekend, I straight out issued an ultimatum that she just had to attend the entire week. In the end, she was much more glad than I was that she attended the entire event.
This marriage certainly made me finalise as to how I would like to get married. As much as I insisted that marrying in a Church would be poetic and unique at least for me, Supriya always kept insisting since the first day that she would like to get married in a temple. Now that we had witnessed a wedding that was nothing short of a visual feast, I leaned towards her in the silent coach and whispered, “Still want to get married in a temple?”
Adorning a smile, she replied, “Do you think one fancy wedding in a church would make me reconsider my choice?”
Smiling back, I asked, “How about both ways?”
Pulling off her earbuds, she thought about what she intended to say for a while before trying to put it as politely as possible by saying, “You would need to start negotiating for any of it to happen, darling.”
That’s it. Before I even noticed, my face took its turn to show how disappointed I was about what she just said. At the time, I couldn’t agree more with what she had said but as usual my external personality somehow never fails to listen to my internal self and this always causes a lot of problems in the way people perceive how I take feedback.
Not bothering about how I expressed myself, I started thinking about what could be the worst consequence of my marriage discussion with my parents? The answer I could get was that I might be disowned.
Though this troubled me now and then. Maybe because I didn’t know if I was in a position to leave my relational title like a professional one and even if I would be willing to, what would happen if I never reconciled with my parents over time? Would that be the last of our bond? What if I would regret leaving them a couple of years down the line?
While I spiralled down in my chain of thoughts, Supriya said, “It took them nearly two years, Karan, for that wedding that you fell in love with to happen. How long do you think our parents might take?”
This got me out of the thought of being disowned and got me thinking, what if I were to give them time and wait until they accepted? Would they at least respect my choice over time? Would they reconsider their rejection?
The only answer I could find was that our friends’ parents took two years to accept but they eventually did so because there was rationality and mutual respect between them and their children. As a matter of fact, they even valued their children’s choices. However, I was not so sure if my parents were the same. Forget mutual respect, I didn’t even know if my parents would even listen to my side of the story once I had told them that I was in love.
Each passing thought made me feel more and more anxious so I just stopped thinking for a while and Supriya just stared at me helplessly. There wasn’t anything either of us could do to help the situation. But there was a tiny bit of hope for me witnessing the backstory behind Seby and Lavanya’s marriage. If Lavanya’s father, who is an orthodox Brahmin, could see the real potential of Sebastian and let his daughter marry in a Church, I could see my parents eventually comprehending the real worth Supriya would add to our family.
With that thought, a smile appeared on my face and Supriya felt relieved.
For a moment, I could see myself with Supriya taking our oaths before the flame adorned in yellow and white just as Sebastian & Lavanya stood before the divine messenger to take their oaths adorned in black and white.
That thought got me thinking, what if patience and time are the keys to making it work? What if we waited for a couple of years like Seby and Lavanya did to make their parents accept?
Though there was a part of me that said those factors won’t help, there was still hope that if patience is the key and time is the price, why not pay a good amount to achieve what is needed?
Even then, if it would be irrationality, arrogance and inherited traditions that they would prefer, then I was ready to take every last accusation levelled against me and lead a life with no regrets. Personally, I thought that would be the least I could do for my cute bride!