Venice is full of alleys. We stepped off our vaporetto and pulled out the map trying to find our way to our hotel. It said it was just 5 minutes away. That we were rolling four suitcases on the uneven road didn’t make things easy. Every few metres we encountered a small bridge over a canal which meant climbing steps while carrying the suitcases to the other side.
We emerged into a campo or square with plenty of cafes and restaurants. There were several narrow lanes emerging from all sides of the campo. We kept turning our map round and round to try and get our orientation right. And then decided to pull our suitcases down one alley where several tourists were going. A few metres down that road we found another bridge. Clearly we were going the wrong way. But there wasn’t any point in asking a tourist the way.
“Kidhar jaana hai?”, we heard the sweet sound of our own language in this alien country. Surprised, we turned around to find a genial man in his late thirties in a chef’s uniform.
He turned out to be Ali. From Peshawar. From Pakistan. Apparently he had seen us from his kitchen with our suitcases and map, and had followed us from the square to help us. What a sweet soul! In his fantastic Pathani accent he explained how tourists frequently got lost. And though he didn’t know our hotel he asked another colleague and gave us the right directions.
That evening returning from Burano, we met Ali again at the vaporetto stop, on his way back home after a hard day’s work. It felt so great to greet him in our native tongue. Nations, religion, language- all artificial divides. As long as you can hear the song of another’s heart, none of these boundaries matter.
And then I returned home to see politicians trying to bridge a divide between people. For a few paltry votes. Can’t we see through them and listen to the music of each other’s hearts instead?