Sangeeta Singh Deo looks good enough to feature on the menu, in mirchi-red and pearls. A quick glance down the list of tongue-twisters and she opts to wrap hers around a Pomodoro fresco e mozzarella bocconcini con pestor olive basilico pomodori sechhi, for starters. I opt for a plain old caesar salad.
La Piazzas not the most politically correct choice of eatery for a bjp MP, she says. Its OK, I tell her, Sharad Pawar served pasta at dinner after he putta de knife in de signoras back. Crisp garlic bread and little bowls of olive oil appear. Got to pay for this with dragon breath later, says Sangeeta, resisting temptation.
The low lighting and Placido Domingo trigger memories of her Roman holiday; Pavarotti performing against a backdrop of floodlit Roman ruins. All I can think of is futile wishes and wasted lira at the Fontana di Trevi. Crunching lettuce, we unravioli Sangeetas lineage. The thakur political network is truly awesomeevery other MP is kaka or dada, party no bar, pairi pauna bar-bar. Uncle K.P. Singh Deo is the closest, family and geography-wise, but shes also related to Andhra Pradesh ex-MP (and raja of Parvathipuram) Kishore Chandra Deo, Patialas maharani and MP Praneet Kaur, Madhya Pradesh MP Dalip Singh Judev, prince of Jashpur and ex-MP Natwar Singh. Jaswant Singhs sons call her jija (elder sister).
Sangeeta knows her way around the menu, La Piazza being a favourite haunt. She passes on the wine, declines the duty managers offer of advice from the chef andvegetarian for a dayasks for ravioli (Raviolone di ricotta con olive e pomodori sechhi) in tomato basil sauce. I go with the canelloni (Canelloni di ricotta gratinati). The food rates an unqualified yum. Flavoursome and masala-free (Italian cuisine as its meant to be), but we make up for that with hot-hot political gossip: cross-dressers, second wives and who-hates-who.
From there, we move on to her political colleagues, from best buddy Suresh Kalmadi to up-and-coming Rajiv Pratap Rudi Singh. She tends to look at everybodys good sideMadhavrao Scindias a nice guy with a great sense of humour(!), Pramod Mahajans an awesomely charismatic speaker, cassettes of whose speeches sell in black(!!), Naveen Patnaik is a dedicated bloke doing an awfully good job as chief minister(!!!).
Sternly quelling her sweet tooth, Sangeeta asks for a cappuccino and after a tiramisu-centred struggle with my conscience, I follow suit. She talks of things personal: how Biju-da encouraged her, as grand-daughter-in-law of former Orissa CM R.N. Singh Deo, to take the electoral plunge, her fear of flying (alone) and why party-hopping doesnt mean youre a dumb brunette. Conversation, needless to say, far outlasts the coffee.