This one is going to be a long post. What the hell, it was 20 freaking 20! If you are reading this, then you made it through. Well done!
My year had kickstarted in Berlin last year and as one would have hoped, I did too, that I would spend the rest of it travelling and visiting as many countries as possible around Europe. But clearly the universe had other plans for everyone! The plans I had at the beginning of 2020 for my personal and professional life had flipped 180 just six months into the year. With that I stopped planning my life and began taking things as it came, which was possible because my super strict Indian parents had flipped 180 along with me! (smiled the widest as I typed that)
With a short but breathtaking trip to Berlin and Budapest the year seemed promising and I was surrounded by people who loved and appreciated me and vice versa. This was my family that I chose and built from scratch on a whole new continent and can never be grateful enough for them. I cleared my first semester at Politecnico di Milano with grades I never saw myself achieving at a university abroad. I started looking at cooking as passion rather than a task and there was no turning back after that! A personal blog that I used to review restaurants in India wasn’t really working in Europe so I started posting my cooking experiments there just to keep them blogged away somewhere.
I started off this month of holidays taking long walks in the city, sometimes alone, sometimes with company. It had been nearly six months since I moved here and I had barely seen around Milan. Those were some really beautiful days over which I fell in love and accepted Milan as my new home. I coloured my hair again after a break of two years but stuck to a dull brown just to test waters first. I spent the next two weeks in Munich, Germany with my brother where I also had my first severe Gluten reaction. After which everything in his house was gluten-free haha! Had the chance to interact and stayover with some of his friends which are experiences very close to my heart. It was also the first time a experienced a snow storm ever. It was truly a fulfilling trip with lots of German food, good company, snow fall, solo trips and just quality time with my brother. Towards the end of my stay there we got the dreaded email that university would be shut for another week. I left ASAP because I wasn’t sure I was prepared to be locked up in Germany in terms of required documents. Happy to be reunited with my friends again I continued taking my architectural walks around Milan. Not satisfied with my hair colour experiment, I pushed my boundaries further and went Pink. On the last weekend we took one last trip to Aosta valley before shit went downhill with covid.
A few days into the month, my friends had all returned to their countries. All of a sudden I was completely alone and in a global pandemic where the country I lived in was the worst affected. It was all calm in the beginning, and I simply approached it one day at a time. I think we all did. I’m sure it was worse for my parents being so far away with both children in Europe. So I made sure I spoke to them as often as I could. We even celebrated mum’s birthday on video call and my dad sang a little song for her which was super cute. So the month just had me studying, working out, eating well and having panic attacks each time I needed to buy groceries. I did have one flatmate with whom I got to celebrate Iranian new year before she left as well. I’ve written more about this month in another post which is depressing, I suggest you don’t read it 😀
Now I had no friends here so I tried making some connections through social media just to find people I could relate to. Came across an Italian guy and we hit it off instantly as virtual pen pals. I really needed a friend and his company helped though it was only phone calls to vent and cook up something new. My first attempt at the rustic meat pie was under his guidance and it turned out better than his (at least looked better) which was hilarious. That was for Easter 2020 for me. Just a fancy meal cooked for one person 🙂
Grocery shopping was something we all looked forward to because it was the only time we got to step out. Even though we had to do the whole 3 hour cycle of waiting in the queue, buying everything, returning, sanitizing the products, then showering before entering our rooms. The “joy!” The sudden excess in free time got me trying dishes I’ve not tried before. You can a see a picture of my first attempt at a very sad egg biryani.
This was the month where my mental health took the biggest hit. I hadn’t imagined what anxiety along with loneliness could do to a person and here I was unaware of how bad it was going to get. I wasn’t able to perform the smallest of tasks without breaking down so of course, my relationship of three years which was already strained over the past six months couldn’t take it. It ended by the end of the month and we remained friends. But I was kind to myself and let myself take time to recover. Spent most of my time tending to plants and baking carrot cakes which turned into an obsession and now I don’t think I can ever eat another carrot cake lol. My groupmates from my project this semester may not be aware of this but they were truly my biggest support, positive distraction and source of endless laughter. We were on calls literally everyday working and kidding around so there was almost no time to spiral down again. The lockdown was called off by the end of the month and I finally met the Italian friend and got to try homemade Italian food and it is amazing, hands down.
Besides all of that, my parents were the kindest they have ever been. They counseled me through the break up, through my anxiety and also suggested I drink turmeric milk to feel better. Maybe it works because I did feel better in less than a month lol.
Two of my three flatmates returned this month just in time to keep what was left of my sanity. There were many lunches and dinners with both of them and I was finally pulling through. I also started making plans and hanging out with my classmates again. One of those hangouts had me walking home at 2 am all by myself for the first time in Milan. I was always dropped home by one of my friends until then. I’d say the walk was empowering but I was also gripping the life out of the pepper spray in my pocket. That was the beginning of many more midnight rendezvous and now I can say I’m pro at it. Even though people were moving around, our classes were still online. We successfully completed second semester with decent grades and had an online aperitivo to celebrate it.
Though I had company at home I was still feeling lonely and I really craved for some girl company. There’s just something so positive about an evening surrounded with girls in an uncertain time like this. I mean think about it. Your self esteem is at its lowest. You hang out with girls and drink wine and compliment each other for their hair, their clothes, their make up, their accessories, their life decisions, their battles and so on. Though it sounds like nothing, it is everything we need at that moment for that confidence to build again. So I joined bumble for BFFs to find myself some girl company and it was a life saver! I met the coolest bunch of girls from all over the world and we met many times over the month, each time bringing in more and more girls. The whole experience was so positive and uplifting for me. I also took my first trip with my flatmates after nearly a month. We went to Sirmione and just sunbathed and relaxed with a book by the water. It was incredible. Just a month filled with positive female energy.
I’d say this was the most eventful month for me. I had to move out of my student residence because it was the summer break and all were expected to go home. So I got a temporary place near the outskirts of Milan with 3 Egyptian girls. It’s funny because in the 12 months I’ve been here, I’ve had 10 different flatmates lol. Anyway the new house was beautiful and there was so much greenery around, it reminded me of Bangalore. On our short strolls we would spot rabbits and shirtless men running, I was even considering relocating here after the month. The dream was short-lived unfortunately, we started having electricity issues and after spending 3 days with no power and sleeping over at friend’s place to work, I ran away to Germany to the safe providing arms of my brother ahaha! In my three weeks there I made so many new friends. Developed a crush on my brother’s friend (pretty sure it was mutual). Had multiple drinking nights. And had a barbecue outside a church because the priest was our friend. Mario was working most of the time so I had nothing to do but hang around touristy places and make short solo trips. On one of my solo trips to Cologne I happened to meet this really smart kid who was pursuing B.Arch after getting a degree in carpentry. He was such a curious kid and wanted me to tell him all about my work experience, share my portfolio etc. I felt like a guru ahaha. We ended up going around Cologne together all day and decided to stay in touch. Hey Kid, if you’re reading this, Aachen will happen soon!
I returned to Milan only after my friends returned from UAE. Oh the joy of reuniting with them! We were still missing one because he was stuck in India but this was still such a relief. Together we hosted the most epic summer party ever which people talk about even today, six months later! I moved back into my residence, into the same apartment, into the same room -_- Thanks, polimi!
PS I downloaded tinder-bumble-okcupid for the first time ever and started going on dates again.
The month I traveled the most in the year and finally had a chance to appreciate Italy for what it is. There were trips lined up every weekend, Pisa, Florence, Genova, Cinque Terre and Venice-Verona on my birthday. It was truly a month of adventure and lessons. Dating in Europe was nothing near what I expected. I imagined I’d be heart broken and hurt and would have to really lower my expectations because of which I was really afraid. Instead, I actually learned so much about myself, connections and people in general. Multiple epiphanies had me my calling my girls in US and India almost every other day just to share my experiences. And these are all lessons I learned from the conversations I had with the guys a went on dates with.
Just to mention a few of those.
*It’s not okay for someone to convince you to be physical with them. Even in a relationship.
*People actually take “No” for an answer without making you feel like shit about it or without being butthurt.
*Cheating is cheating even if there were no feelings involved in that act. (I was convinced it wasn’t)
*They are just as nervous about inter-culture dating as I am!
PS. One of the guys I went on a date with brought me flowers from his garden. It was the first time someone brought me flowers ever. We didn’t see each other again but just witnessing the effort men put in here for a date with a stranger was heart warming. Apart from the lessons, my birthday this year was my best one yet. My circle of friends became larger and tighter after this month long adventure. 🙂
This was by far the busiest month of the year (probably even in the past 3 years). It was my dad’s 60th birthday this month after which he would be retiring from his post as a government officer. He was devastated that he would be retiring without my brother and I around and so was I. My mom and I took it upon ourselves to organize a surprise retirement party for him. This would have about 80 guests, Catering, Invitations, Banners, Decor and a movie covering his professional and personal life until now. It’s no joke having to call such important people, invite them, call them again to confirm their presence and have them send videos across with wishes in case they couldn’t make it. There was a lot of nagging from my end which I did not enjoy. I actually counted the hours of work I put in and it was about 180 hours, almost equal to another semester course! But in the end it was all worth it because my dad was in tears and the party was a huge success. Only drawback here, my brother didn’t involve or help at all and we stopped talking for over a month. Thanks big brother! If you’re reading this, I’m now their favourite child.
Welcomed home a new flatmate this month, the youngest person I’ve co habited with haha! A 19 year old Italian girl and the, easiest person to share a bathroom with (important things) We started cooking most meals together and it worked so well. My friends and I also successfully hosted a Diwali party, our third one this year. Now we are known to host the best parties in Polimi (I’m not even kidding). My parents started renovating my home in Bangalore for which I was designing everything at first but eventually gave up. They are the most difficult clients I’ve ever had and I have designed for the government of Jharkhand! But it makes me happy that a dream they have been seeing for years was finally turning into reality. I only wish I could have been settled enough to support them financially at this point. But hey, I’ve funded my own education abroad, so not taking money from them is also kind of helpful, no?
Apart from that I started dating exclusively last month. We had two incredible dates and there was no looking back after that. This month he had to go back to his hometown because of the second wave. So hello, long-distance, my old friend! Haha. I was more than happy to do it and everything was just so simple with him. Makes me feel positive for us. I told my parents I was seeing someone again which is a huge deal for me because the last time I communicated this with them, they created a ruckus! Thankfully they were accepting, supportive and simply open-minded about the whole thing. Told you they flipped 180 along with me! They are the same parents who were looking for a Christian-Tamilian-doctor/engineer-family-in-Bangalore-boy for me just last year. Look at them now open to the idea of me dating a non-Indian. Are they the same parents I had last year?! I don’t know.
This month was my happiest. Of course, because it was the month of Christmas and celebration. I had a few days where I really missed my parents and my home in Bangalore. I just missed the hype around Christmas in India. I mean, Indians are so ‘extra’ with everything, it is AWESOME. Month long preparation of sweets, cake, wine, decorations and finally dressing our best for the midnight mass. And here I was home alone, studying, unable to find time to buy a Christmas tree until the 22nd of December. That made me miss India. But with the remaining time I had, my friends and I did go overboard and threw the most ‘extra’ Christmas party possible (verified because we got positive feedback from the non-Indians) Apart from that I wore a freakin’ gown to church where everyone else (like 10 other people who attended mass with me) was so dull. It was hilarious but also got me appreciating Indian culture so much more. Just felt blessed to have had the chance to celebrate Christmas being this ‘extra’ almost all my life!
Another major change with the parents was noticed this month. Now, my dad is kind of conservative when it comes to my dressing habits. I say “kind of” because he’s not the worst and it can get really bad with Indian dads. He generally didn’t appreciate me in denim shorts or spaghetti strap clothing and the likes. So for Christmas I was quite nervous to wear the gown I bought because of its neckline. I mean, it was deep but I loved it and I really didn’t want to hide stupid things like this from him. So I just gave it a shot and video called him after mass and he was curious to see what I was wearing. Nervously, I handed the phone over to my friend and backed up to show him the whole package. I kid you not, my dad’s reaction was “Beautiful mago!” (mago=baby in tamizh) with the widest smile I’ve seen on him. Who are you guys and what have you done with my parents?!
If you haven’t told them, it’s not their problem. If they haven’t told you, it is not your problem. This is something I taught myself this year trying to understand and overcome my anxiety. So it was pretty upsetting to see a very close friend of mine not on board with this and we ended the year not speaking to each other. Depression and anxiety was on the rise and the world was filled with negativity but I did try my best to be kind and say only positive things to friends, family and people around me because each one was fighting their own battles. I’m just happy and grateful that everyone I loved were safe and healthy this year.
Just a little something for you guys out there to reflect on.
The year 2020 wasn’t kind to most of us but you could be kind to the people around you. So were you kind? 🙂