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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.