When I was younger, I used to pray for a friend. I would clasp my hands and shut my eyes at night, muttering the request before bed. I’m lucky — as I know now — that I have best friends in my closest family. But I couldn’t help feeling that a piece of the puzzle was missing as I saw around me people who had become family by choice. Friends close enough to share not only moments of lung-shattering laughter, but also the quieter, darker moments. A best friend to fall asleep next to, mid-conversation, talking about everything and nothing.
The closest thing I had ever encountered to that was broken by physical distance, when I moved away from my childhood home at six years old. A few muffled phone calls and many imagined conversations later, those friendships fizzled like Diwali sparklers. They became safely ensconced in the warm, sweet haze of memory. Thoughts of those times were all I had when my new but hollow friendships came and went like the passing seasons. I wanted something more. Something for life.
In the quiet moments — a few seconds before opening my eyes in the morning or just glancing out of the corner of my eye — Rome felt like Calcutta. All memories of my birthplace are tied to my grandmother’s house. The barking dogs, narrow alleyways, even the way the rays of sunlight fell in the early afternoon — all brought me back to the place I spent my holidays, playing and napping and eating to bursting point.
I liked Rome especially in those moments. It felt like being home.
Day two of our visit to Italy, my parents and I visited Vatican City. We took a hop-on hop-off bus, which took us on a beautiful route around Rome as well. The streets bustled with life and energy and for the third time in my life (after living in New Delhi and London), doubt flickered in my mind about New York being the only city that never sleeps.
I won’t lie, you can be pretty miserable and grey. (I don’t blame you — I’m pretty miserable and grey sometimes, too.) One of the loveliest things about this time of year, though, is the rampant enthusiasm about the upcoming festivities. And I’m being pretty generous about the term ‘upcoming’. Even though Halloween is all the way at the end of this month (and let’s not even talk about Christmas) (83 days to go), it’s like a switch is flipped on the world on October 1st. Everything is suddenly spookier — nights are darker, the wind feels chillier and is that a bird or a bat in the distance?
Witches: a book or character that is magical
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is one that comes to mind. If you’re in the mood for something just slightly spooky, this is perfect
Werewolves: a book best read in the middle of the night
Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl. It’s a collection of his short stories and some of them will have you chilled. I particularly recommend The Landlady, Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat, and Genesis and Catastrophe.
Zombies: a book you picked up for the second time/continued after not finishing it
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Mostly because I forgot it at home when I left for university, but also because I had heard too many opinions whilst reading it and needed a break.
Mummies: a book or character you can’t wrap your mind around
Merricat from We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson. Her mind was difficult to burrow into, and it’s quite an unsettling place once you’re there.