‘Yeah, it’s good! But it’s raining!’ I said.
‘You should relish Europe as much as you can.’ He replied.
Relish; that one word suddenly triggered my usual midnight hunger pangs. I sneaked down the elevator to the hotel lobby towards the restaurant, where the mid aged bespectacled waiter, already laying the tables for tomorrow’s breakfast spread, informed me that they were closed.
‘But I want Gelato!’
Proving to be a true Italian, he empathized with my dessert cravings.
‘Aah! Try the shop round the corner of the block; Buona gelato! ‘
I stepped out only to find the rain pouring with all its defiance. But then, the heart wants what it wants! With bold steps, I made my way in the rain into the cold lonely street. As I turned round the corner, there was sudden life, clinking of wine glasses, laughter, food and chatter. The lyrics of the song played as if for my homecoming – you can checkout anytime you like, but you can never leave.
‘Buono sera! Bouno sera!’ Chimed the waiters and the man behind the counter handed me the menu. I asked the young enthusiastic waiter about the ingredients in the desserts listed and finally asked him to choose one for me. In a jiffy, without a second thought, he pointed at the Tiramisu, kissed his fingertips and exclaimed ‘Molto bella!’
While I waited for my dessert to arrive, I started describing the scene of café onto the tissue paper on my table. I looked up as my dessert arrived, the waiter looking more excited than me as I indulged in my first bite. The cold soft cream between the moist rum soaken sponge cake and coffee dust melted in my mouth. I leisurely savored the soothing amalgamation of cream, coffee and chocolate with a tinge of sweetness. Perfecto! As I threw my thumbs up to the waiter, who had been waiting eagerly for my expressions on his recommendation, his face lit up and he waltzed back to work.
‘See, that’s Italy! They love their food!’ the guy sitting behind my table whispered.
‘So are you a writer, writing a book?’ he asked. I smiled and said that I was a writer in the making. He grinned mischievously, ‘anything there about us in there?’ I laughed and replied, ‘Ohh! Yes, I had imagined a conversation.’ He smiled and in response he started filling in the gaps of my imaginary conversation by talking about himself; he was traveling with his girlfriend, they both worked in a restaurant in London. Although tourists themselves, they acted as the hosts, welcoming me to their Europe. He asked what all I had done today, to which I replied I couldn’t go out much because of the incessant downpour and almost apologetically he exclaimed that these were unexpected monsoons in Europe.
We spoke a while about India, he told me that he had an Indian friend and would like to visit India. ‘He tells me in India, everyone finishes college to become a doctor or engineer.’ I said that was true to a large extent. He asked if I too was an engineer or doctor, and when I nodded my head to say a yes, he exclaimed, ‘It’s great that you write, you should never give up your dreams.’ I asked him what his dreams and aspirations were, he said, ‘Life is very short! I would like to see everything, travel the world and enjoy each moment.’ As they got up, after finishing their meal, he winked and said ‘I love the rains, gives us another reason to walk slowly together under the same umbrella!’
Notes from Milan