This was in Rome. I was waiting for my friends and family to come out of the Pantheon. And also waiting to see if this homeless lady would look up. I toyed with the idea of striking up a conversation with her just to get to know her. I was going to ask her if she would let me take a picture with her and give her money to respect her time and for the picture. Unfortunately for me, she never woke up or looked up…
I was generally observing people and talking to random folks on the streets as my family and friends finished up seeing all the stuff to be seen in Florence. I saw this gentleman come out of an office building with a nice leather office bag in his left hand. And a trash bag in his right!!! As far as I could see him, he clutched both and kept walking…..
My family and friends were all roaming around Verona – ostensibly visiting Juliet’s house and Arena and all that – as I was going from street to street talking to people and whenever possible, downing another glass of Barbera d’Asti. Then a shop caught my attention – it was a fountain pen shop. A very small one at that.
Anyways, I went inside and looked at the pens on display. None of them caught my fancy but I did strike up a conversation with the elderly gentleman sitting there. I asked him if he had any true original Italian fountain pen in a fine tip. I also showed him a picture of the collection I have. It was immediately evident that he did not come across fountain pen dieahards too often.
Before I knew anything, he locked up his shop and took me for a walk to another place – and there was a much bigger fountain pen shop there. He introduced the lady inside as his wife and introduced me to her as a “collector” (first time ever I felt vaguely cool about myself). They sat me down and told me the story of his family over a cup of capuccino.
I got to know how Rudi’s – that was his name – father had applied for a license to open a fountain pen shop in 1939 in Verona. Italy, under Mussolini, was in the middle of the World War that time and it took him a year to get license to open a shop. And he dedicated his rest of his life to making pens and selling them. His son and daughter in law later expanded on that business. They do not make any pens now but sell high end fountain pens. manellapens.it is their website.
He then handed me a book on history of fountain pens from Italy and refused to accept money for that. I did land up adding two more to my collection – an original Delta (which is I think the only real Italian fountain pen company left – it is like the Alfa Romeo in cars) and a MonteVerde (which started in Italy but is now produced in USA also).
Finally, I took a picture of them and promised to stay in touch!!!
After I was done laughing with Sharmila, Sonali and Paromita (see previous blog), I had the last piece of business for the day to take care of. I got to know Paromita when she was Nikita’s age today thru her brother – Partho – who was a year junior to me and we overlapped in two different schools (including our engineering school). Partho and I often played soccer together and practised music together in those days.
While in that engineering school, I had visited his house in Durgapur a couple of times. The last one of them was in 1988. That was the last time I saw his (and Paromita’s) mom – Mrs. Roy. We have talked to each other a couple of times over the phone ever since, but the last time I saw her was twenty seven years back. As it turns out, she is in New York now. So, I made the trek to Paromita’s condo to meet her mom!!
It was simply exhilarating to see Mrs. Roy after such a long time! We talked about some of my friends she knew from the past, some hilarious stories about Kaku (Mr. Roy, who, unfortunately is no more) – especially the one in Howrah station involving the “complaint register”, their old dog and my trusted old Vijay Deluxe!
I was thrilled to find out that she is keeping up with her creativity by writing articles, stories and poems. She was looking for a way to publish them. Unfortunately, it was past midnight when I finished up. But I promised to take an hour next time I am in NYC and help her set up her blogsite!!!
Till next time then, Mrs. Roy!!!
Saw this right in front of the Colosseum. This was an interesting way to feed hay to the horse in a self contained feeder without anything spilling over. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like this before. I have some doubts though if the horse eventually learns that to reach the bottom of the feeder, it needs to put the feeder down on the ground…
I know this looks like an Italian painting (except for the modern lady handbags, perhaps) but it is a real photo taken with my phone. The backdrop of the story goes in the following way:
Natasha, who goes and stays in a dorm and takes classes in different colleges every summer often makes friends from very different cities and countries every year. Being a person who values people and relationships with people over just about anything else in this finite time on this beautiful earth that we have fashionably named “life”, I am always a little bothered when she does not keep in touch with many of those friends after summer.
Conversely, you can only guess my excitement when she declared that she was going to meet a friend that she had not seen after one of those summers – I forget whether it was Duke or Brown – when we visit New York. Karina (called “Karina with a K”) was going to visit her wherever we stayed. Except the whole plan fell thru at the last moment due to her dad’s office travel plans.
I was not feeling too good about leaving Sharmila and Nikita to visit Time Square by themselves but I did tell Natasha that I will take her to wherever her friend lived. Which, as it turned out was a two hour hike with three trains involved in between. But, it was okay with me – as long as she realized that life is all about the human relationships. Everything else is too materiliastic to be worried about.
The train finally pulled into the Ridgewood station. And we arrived at the agreed upon meeting point. As soon as we started coming out of the tunnel, she spotted her friend at the top of the flight of steps. They ran as fast as they could towards each other and hugged each other hard.
Separated by a year in age, brought up thousands of miles away, they came together for a few weeks a few years back and then this afternoon, there was the moment where they saw each other again!!! The tunnel lighting was not good. But that is the best picture I could get of that powerful moment of strength of human relationships.
And here I am waiting at a nearby bar, biding my three hours as they catch up with themselves…
We were on our way to Verona. On the way, somebody needed a bio break. So, we took the first exit off the highway. It was a totally old, broken down village. Most of the buildings were dilapidated and it was clear that the best days of the village were behind it.
As we casually trolled the streets, we found one small place with a sign saying “Bar” and even more enouraging sign saying “Open” (in Italian). Why a bar was open so early in the morning was something beyond me.
In any case, we went in hoping to find some clean bathrooms. And I am glad that we did. Not only did we find clean bathrooms, but also we got to make friends with the owners of the bar. There was really nobody there other than them. I depserately wanted to find out more about their village – so I went up and tried chatting them up. But there was a problem – they could not speak English at all. And I could not speak Italian or the language they were talking to each other in. I gave “Ni Hao Ma” a shot in the dark and they excitedly responded!! So, I figured they were Chinese – but that is pretty much where my knowledge of Chinese ended too 🙂
Eventually, I got our driver to be the go between (to translate between English and Italian) and found out that they were from Hanzhou district near Sanghai. Husband and wide emigrated to Italy seventeen years back and after learning the local language, started a small coffee bar. Which has now become the bar that we were all at. Apparently, most of their business today is from the workers from a couple of old factories nearby.
We all had some Italian capuccino and took some pictures of them. Unfortunately, they did not have any cards for the store (yes, it was that remote a village in Italy!!).
If I ever go back to Italy, I would love to go back there and spend more time with them. Very nice people.