Handing over a box of chocolate and exchanging a warm hug, Ajji said “Arrivederci, tutto il meglio. Ritonare in Italia” I replied back saying “Ajji, Banni namma India ge” for which she promptly smiled and told “Si Si, Io amo l'India”.
This was a heartfelt conversation between us without understanding what either spoke, until I made an effort to type it out on translator to find the meaning of those words of the wonderful Italian lady. “Ajji” means grandma in Kannada, this was how I addressed this beautiful elderly Italian lady. She and her family managed the hotel which was my abode all through my vacation in Italy.
I had accepted to all the terms and conditions such as no chance of going out in the evening, no cribbing about being bored at hotel, no pinging hubby at work as this was a hectic onsite assignment for him. But who cares! It is ITALY, my dream destination! So I instantly accepted all these for Italy and here I was in Pescara. Pescara is a silent, small and beautiful Italian country side which had one good hotel - Hotel Dragonara. The hotel was managed by a family, of this Old lady, whom I called “Ajji”.
My Italian vacation had started and I had plans to walk around Pescara to enjoy the snow clad mountains on one side and calm seas on the other. What could be more fun than to explore the roads less taken in this small Italian town? Cuddling in my warm Jacket, as I stepped out of the hotel, an old lady peeped out from kitchen and shouted “tenere al caldo,divertirsi, godere”. I was very confused and wondered if something was wrong. Sensing my confused state, she smiled waving her hand. Assuming that to be a good bye message I continued on my exploration. On return I decided to meet and ask her name. She just blushed saying “No inglese”. I was again left with no option other than to smile back to her and return to my room.
The whole episode of this beautiful old lady being so friendly and nice, pushed me to recollect all those words which I later translated on net and there I was very touched. As I had started out, she had told me “Keep warm, have fun, enjoy” and when I had asked her name she had replied “No English” meaning she didn’t understand English. I couldn’t stop admiring the way some people treat their guests without any inhibitions. At that very moment the notion of language and its importance was washed away as I realized in order to build relationship, to be friendly, to express warmth and care, we only need the willingness to do so and not proficiency in language.
From that day onwards, it became my routine to speak to her. She spoke to me endlessly in Italian at times pointing to the plants and sometimes pointing to her grand children. I understood that it was probably to do with all the things she pointed and kept responding to her in Kannada, which is my mother tongue. It hardly made any difference to her whether I spoke in English or Kannada, but it gave me great satisfaction of speaking in my mother tongue in a foreign land. I tried asking her name in broken Italian words picked up from Internet but hardly could I understand her fast flowing Italian and so I could not get her name all through my stay there. It hardly mattered as I loved to address her as “Ajji”(Grandma), which she never understood anyway.
The day I checked out of the hotel, Ajji came to me, handing over a box of chocolate hugged me tight and told me “Goodbye, All the best. Come back to Italy” for which I replied “Ajji, come to India”. As she understood only the word “India”, she replied “Yes Yes, I Love India”. Somehow, finally the conversation did have some meaning which was only understood much later.
When I had boarded the flight to Italy, I assumed that on my return, if someone mentions the country Italy to me, I will be remembering magnificent Coloseum or enchanting Pantheon or beautiful Trevi or may be romantic Venice. Surprisingly, even today before all these flashes in my mind, I remember the warm hug, care and love of my host, Ajji.
I boarded the flight back to India holding that box of chocolate which according to me was the Memorie da Italia for it held all the priceless memories of our Italian – Kannada conversations, her care and her beautiful smile.
I understood that any place is memorable more for the experiences there than for what it is actually known. So folks, next time on your vacation be open for such experience which will remain with you forever because the best things will surely not be mentioned in your itinerary.
PS: Hi, will be away to make more such memories ;). So wait for me to come back from vacation and bore you again with my stories :D.