by Udita Bajaj
First day, first historical monument of Rome to visit. I stood there, motionless and at a loss of words. All I could do was stare. Stare at the architectural beauty which had a gaze several hundred years old and an aura even older. It had sustained the eye of many – more than one could ever count and I was just one of those myriad puny humans who came from around the world to admire it. My novels had come to life and for the first time, I was physically there, walking towards the entrance, ready to seep myself in a history book, dissolving into the first chapter.
I’d walked in with a positive attitude and a refreshed mind but naturally, as always, something unpleasant was bound to happen. Yes, we had to take a tour guide. Yes, Rome was one of my dream destinations. But why am I then supposed to know everything? I had always been interested in history and picked up bits of information wherever I stumbled upon them perchance – books, television, movies…everywhere! Be that as it may, I intentionally never went on the Internet and researched about the places I’ll be visiting in detail. Why? I want to learn. I want to learn while being there in person so that I could fully feel it all and absorb it all. But just because I had always been fascinated with Roman mythology and history didn’t mean I was a walking talking Roman encyclopedia!
“What is this sculpture, Udita? Which God, which king? What is it made of? Why is it like this?”
“You have an interest in Roman history, right? Tell us, then. Why is this monument built like this? Why is its structure like this?”
“You don’t know this? And you claim to be interested? What a disgrace!”
These were just a few repetitive taunts I had the privilege to hear from my family, especially my brother. A twelve year old freak – that is what he was, and with those tangled strands – mischief was written on his face, clearly shown in that evil triumphant grin he flashed at me from time to time. Since that day in the snow in Switzerland, his behavior had completely turned around. He was like a monkey out of its cage! Annoying me had become his favourite hobby and was being mastered by him to perfection in Rome. Apparently, my interest had slowly transformed into a subject of mockery.
It was discouraging but I tried not to let it overpower me and remove the reason why I was in this city. I was here to learn and immerse myself in what I loved. No matter what my obnoxious little brother said, I saw every part of this massive Roman amphitheater, listening, reading and learning.
“Are you done roaming around this monument? It’s time to go for shopping now, ” my parents had said to me from time to time, who were unconvinced of my desire to learn – they thought I was posturing it and their indifferent attitude towards the city I adored further strengthened their belief. I sighed to my myself in disgust.
“No,” I said.
I only had two days in my grasp. Tomorrow would be the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Today, I took myself to one of the most famous Piazzas – Piazza Venezia. And of course, my family had to come along, with their eyes open, buried in their phones. But I was determined to see not with the eye, but with the mind.
Tall and grand. Not massive, but grand. Pillars decorated the upper half, an evident symbol of ancient architecture. Below it were carved sculptures depicting…various scenes from battle, I believe? People filled the entire space beneath this magnificent monument, milling about like a swarm of bees, the mindless chatter getting lost amongst itself. However, the most special quality of this Piazza, which I got to learn, was what appealed to me the most – those sculptures weren’t scenes of battle. They were allegory, each with a hidden meaning, symbolizing something.The entire monument was an extended metaphor.
The blazing gleam of excitement in me could not be matched. I looked at my parents who overcome with exhaustion and heat. My little brother’s head rested in mum’s lap as she tried to calm the restlessness inside him because of the heat. Gradually, a slight smile took its place on my face and I shrugged my shoulders. I turned around and headed towards the flight of steps leading to the pale white emblem of grandeur, more ready than ever to plunge into the world of the past on my own.
Someday, I will return and see everything. Explore everything. Learn everything.
Someday, I will return.