Q: What’s a four-letter word in Italian for goodbye?
Q: Why did the mafia cross the road?
A: So that they can forgetaboutit.
So what if the Italians invented pizza, we have just given them a lesson in home delivery! And on top of that, we are not at all impressed with all that thick black smoke that came out of the Vatican. We Indians are now convinced that spooky-smoky stuff happens because the Vatican is located inside Italy. If we don’t snap ties with that dubious country, we may consider sending a delegation to Rome to give a Powerpoint presentation on how to use EVMs (electronic voting machines) and patiently explain to them that there is no need to set fires inside a building. (Imagine if we had set a fire inside Rashtrapati Bhavan during that endless search for a president.)
But let’s get back to the point about the Italians who have done a real number on us. We will show them that we can be just as dramatic in expressing anger, rage, even betrayal. They will discover that all matters Italian end up pressing some subliminal buttons in our brains which in turn does more than create a craving for spaghetti carbonara or thin-crust pizza. Let’s face it: think Italian, and we know, spoken or unspoken, the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s origins is there, hanging in the air.
That said, it’s been a while since someone brought it up directly. Currently, Sonia is Mama to Rahul Gandhi and Mother Superior to the Congress besides being the Most Important Woman in India. Still, at the back of the minds of the Small-Minded People of India is the fact that she was born in Italy! And since 2 plus 2 makes five (and that’s politics), isn’t it inevitable that Italian diplomats acting like the mafiosi would have us in an absolute state of fits? On top of that are the unmentionable rumours floating around Delhi for the past month that the chopper scam (that emerged from an Italian investigation) could lead to Very Important People in India.
The Italian smorgasbord is looking quite overloaded. Although PM-in-waiting Narendra Modiji is yet to say Italian Connection or Rome Raj (a favourite line of his some years ago), we have a fine leader in Arun Jaitley who has dipped into his Ian Flemings and come up with this memorable quote: “It happens once, it’s chance, twice is coincidence, three times and it’s enemy action.” One can only imagine how much fun Jaitleyji had quoting James Bond. On the day he made the speech, TV anchors, usually quite clear about whom to declare war on, were divided between Enemy Nation Pakistan (as there was a fidayeen attack that day in Srinagar) and Enemy Nation Italy.
The Italian story is actually quite original, as are the actions of its diplomats and marines who seem to think that there should be no price to pay for shooting Indians and then scooting. But then Rome wasn’t built in a day without some darned cheek. In the past century, from Mussolini to Berlusconi, Italians have always showed traits that end up in their becoming full-blown fascists and/or self serving hedonists.
We have also heard about the Italian navy preparing a spoof where the lead player says: “Friends, Romans, countrymen/we come to save the marines/not bury them”. But we don’t care as these chaps let out so much smoke while electing popes, corrupt capitalists and pornstars. Of course, it helps that we elect fine people all the time, and besides we are an ancient civilisation so we are wise enough to know that there is no smoke without fire.
We admit that the Italians are very good footballers, solid in defence, crafty in offence who have head-butted India this time. But a great nation like ours will make them pay (not on the football field where we can’t shoot straight) but in the arena of business and defence contracts where Italians have big investments in our fast shrinking economy. We will show them but because we are reasonable people we will not turn against Dominoes Pizzas as we believe that it is American-Italian and we are only against Italian-Italian.
Apropos Lasagna Lafanga, there’s a lesson in this for the Congress party. Take extra care when Sonia touches down in Italy next, or they might just refuse to send her back. Now wouldn’t that be a tragedy?
K. Suresh, Bangalore
The subliminal thing is true, hear Italian and I get visions of pizzas and...the Gandhis.
A. Nathan, Dindigul
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Francis Anthony, when the entire mainstream media in North America, and sections of the Indian media, goes ape crazy about the Papal succession, it's time for common people to remark on it. And wonder what all this pompous, overwrought, wordy, boring coverage is all about. Why not just announce the new pope, tell us what is different about him, and be done with it? Incidentally, a lot of people agree with me on this. And if you are wondering whether I would like to see such detailed coverage of the Shankaracharya successor, or the new head of the Sai Baba movement, forget it. I would be just as aghast and revolted by such pompous, drawn out rubbish, as I would for the Catholic event.
Varun Shekhar, there's a simple solution if you dislike papal investitures: don't watch it, don't comment about. The more you go on online about how much you hate it, the more you provide grist to the mill. Want to turn off the oxygen to this conversation? Keep your bigotry and prejudice to yourself.
Prashi >> Who can doubt that the very purpose of this article is to coat Roman Madam Sonia with Teflon so that the ridiculous behavior of the Indian government does not stick to her? Clearly anyone who tries that is "small-minded".
What else do you expect from a media outlet, owned by a billionaire who businesses as diverse as ceramic tiles, hotels, plastic wares and car batteries...
OUTLOOK lives to raise hands in support of the dynasty.
KishoreDasMunshi >> It says something about the level of intellect of people who equate Italy with pak in the matter of animosity.
Some people equate Narendra Modi with Hitler in the matter of animosity and there is no reason to relate it with the intellectual abilities of the persons who equate the two .
It says something about the level of intellect of people who equate Italy with pak in the matter of animosity.
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