Once I was on a holiday tour of Europe. I was accompanied by my wife. We visited many countries and finally arrived in Italy. It was really a pleasure to visit the beautiful and mesmerising tourist places in Italy. We wandered the whole day and got late returning to our hotel. Unfortunately there was no cab in sight so we walked. We knew that we would be very late in reaching the hotel. As we felt hungry, we decided to have some food on the way. We began searching for a good restaurant but all the restaurants too were closed.
A passerby gave us the address of a nearby restaurant which stayed open till late. By the time we reached the restaurant we saw its shutter down. We became really worried as it was our last hope to get some food. We stood there for some time thinking about the next step. Just then we saw an old couple coming in our direction. They stopped near us and the man asked us, “You look worried. Are you lost? May I help you in any way?” I told him our story and asked his guidance to find any other street food joint. The couple looked at each other.
The old man smiled and exclaimed, “What a coincidence! We are the owners of this restaurant. We were returning home as usual but midway I remembered that I forgot my wallet in the drawer. So we came back to collect it. Don’t worry. I will reopen the shutter for some time. But I can only give you some instant food. Please don’t mind.” We nodded in affirmation and entered the restaurant. The old lady liked my wife’s attire- especially her saree and bangles- and asked if we were Indian. She was even more pleased when my wife helped her in preparing the dishes.
When we were full, the couple carefully closed the shutter again and began to leave. I thanked them from the bottom of my heart. To which the old man replied, “No need to say thanks. You are visitors and we treat you as the guests of our country. You came here for a trip covering a distance of thousands of kilometres. It is our duty to offer you the most gracious hospitality. If our guests remain hungry even once, we consider it a national insult.” The couple refused to take any money from us, but instead requested, “When you return to your country, do tell your people to visit Italy and experience our hospitality.”
I learned a lot from this incidence. The Italian couple had upheld their nation’s pride and prestige high. I desire that everyone, of any nationality, whether at home or abroad should always represent their nation and maintain its dignity. I have also observed that those who criticise their motherland are not respected in foreign countries.
Mahatma Gandhi aptly quoted- A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and souls of its people.