That doesn’t sound like a horrible thing. The Tuscan sun, pasta and gelato every day, and all the Italian boys – how bad could it be, right? Well, no ID, no money, no cards, just 2 pairs of clothes (if ripped tights count) a super strict vegetarian diet (hello, my fellow Jains) makes it a bit tricky. Did I stop my sometimes tricky food habits? Was I looking for David in tattered clothes and matted hair? Or did I just stand at Piazza Michelangelo and hoped for the Italian Gods to get me my BRP. The sole reason for my anguish and pain (in Italy of course) was that my wallet was stolen, like it does, with my resident permit to live in the UK (fact to be noted for the sake of this story, I was living in the UK at the time). Therefore, no permit = no UK = Italy for over 2 weeks.
Phase 1: Panic
I was on holiday so I took the liberty of filling up my shopping bags quite liberally and walked with an excited strut to the cashier, with each item he dropped in my bag, my heart felt fuller until it sank when I reached for my wallet. I was calm. I walked to the changing room, half sure I dropped it with the bundles of clothes. I didn’t. Panic level 3. I traced my path, thrice. Panic level 6. I looked outside, hopelessly now. I called my friends, we looked everywhere, realising it’s time to cancel all my cards. Panic level 10.
Phase 2: Guilt
My friends, let’s call them Eenie & Meenie – went into panic mode with me while trying to console me as I cried on the phone with my father profusely apologising. Eenie was my flatmate from London, Meenie was Eenie’s childhood best friend and our host in Florence. We hurried to the police station, filed reports, called the embassy – it was madness, followed by disappointment and a 2 am walk back home (now that’s another story altogether).
Phase 3: Planning
Time: 3 am
How do I get back home? I should’ve just removed the BRP and put it back with my passport. Will they really notice if I don’t have it? Shit! I need to cancel my flight for tomorrow. Wait, I don’t have any money. Wait, I don’t have any cards. Wait, will Meenie want me out? Wait, what is happening?
Phase 4: Action
Time: 24 hours
Then began the calls, the emails, the applications, the bookings, lucky to have friends who would stay up till 4am on the phone discussing action plans and life plans. I packed for my first day-long trip to a city where I didn’t know the language or the people, all I knew was one pin on google maps that would take me to the embassy, and that this is where the pope lived. Also, I was alone. With my passport gone, I had no identity and an endless waiting game.
Phase 5: Wait
Time: 16 days
At the time, it was probably the worst thing that could happen. Missing a week of uni, staying away from home, oh and the challenges of a Jain diet! I learnt that uovo means egg in Italian and my best options were sushi, fruit, Nutella and pasta, obviously! My day was reading all day and walking till the streets were empty in the evenings. In retrospect, it was a time of self-discovery and gifts in strange wrapping paper. I stared at the Duomo while licking gelato, and I cried waiting for a reply, I wrote sitting at the edge of Ponte Santa Trinita and I impulsively went and coloured my hair and watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with borrowed money because I just had to. No popcorn though, that’s indulgence.
Phase 6: Homecoming
Time: 20 mins + the train ride + the flight + the bus
I got the email, I packed my bag, my friend booked my tickets (yes, I have lovely friends) and I was out in no time. It was a bittersweet feeling, that’s one of my favourite feelings. The bitter tells you the past was beautiful, and the sweet tells you, the future will be too. I got home to Christmas bedding in November and my favourite chocolates (yes, lovely friends) and then began the pursuit of a BRP (again, that’s another story).
Artwork by – John Samuel