A really hot day and this was our second trip out. I hate dragging kids out along in the sun, and that too shopping. But I had no choice. I had to take them out.
We finished the shopping real quick and were walking back. We were happily chatting away and walking when an Asian guy crossed us on the bicycle track. He was on his cycle and got off to cross the road or so I thought.
He smiled at me and I smiled back as usual.
(The below conversation happened in Hindi and I have given it here in English to make it easy for those that do not know Hindi)
He asked me if I was from India and I said “Yes”.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Pakistan” came the reply.
“You live in Florence?” it was his turn to ask.
“Yes and what about you? You live in Florence too?”
“Yes, I work at a restaurant here”
“You live here with your family?”
“Yes, my husband works here in NP”
“Where is your house?”
I point in the general direction of my home, without saying where I live and not offending him at the same time.
“My restaurant owner is from Bombay, Bandra. Where are you from?”
I think for a minute and say “Bangalore” (I actually have to do the “inky pinky ponky” routine every time someone asks me that question!)
“Oh, ok. Now that we are here, we should meet regularly. We are neighbours and it is nice to meet someone from our side”
Alarm bells ring in my head. I smile at people very easily and I know I can have a conversation with anyone on the street without any problem, but try and push to get close with me and I will surely run away! Actually people who try to get too close with me too soon scare me. I will only run in the opposite direction.
I realised this years ago when a Tamilian girl I met at the temple in Dublin took my number and then called me the same weekend and wanted to know personal details like where and how I met my husband and how he proposed to me, etc. I’ve been avoiding her since!
Anyway, back to the conversation.
I nod my head to his comment about meeting up regularly, a non-committal nod. I am giving out to myself in my mind for having spoken to this guy without thinking.
He repeats the same thing again, about meeting regularly. He tells me how the restaurant he works for is called “Gandhi” and the owner runs a few more restaurants of the same name all over Italy including Venice, Rome, Padova, etc.
I just continue to walk nodding to him and smiling at my kids.
“Are the kids going to school?” he asks
“Why did you not send them to school?”
“They study at home” Is all I say. I don’t bother explaining that they are homeschooled.
“How will I know when and where to meet? You should give me your number. What is your number?” He asks again.
I think for a quick few seconds and then tell him. I do not have a mobile phone and only a land line, the number of which I do not remember because I don’t call myself you see! 🙂 What a brainwave sir ji! I pat myself on the back, only mentally of course!
He stares at me in disbelief!
I am glad my children are not fluent in Hindi just yet. Or else they would have asked me why I was lying and they would have promptly given the “uncle” on the street my number!
He had walked a bit of a distance with me and he asked me if I bring the kids to the park.
“When do you come this side”
“I have no particular time”
“Can we meet tomorrow at the park”
“I don’t think so as I am busy and I cannot tell you when I go out and when I do not”
At this, he said bye and see you soon and turned around and pedaled off!
I began laughing, it was actually because of relief that he went away.
Children asked me what happened and I told them the whole story and how I was not comfortable to share my information with a stranger and that is why I did not tell him any details.
The kids agreed and said that we should not divulge information to strangers just like that.
Practical lesson taught to children. Now they will remember this always!