Roman Revenge

Rachna Singh
Saturday, 20 April 2019

We begin our sightseeing. It’s a demanding task that includes walking a million steps on roads paved with disobedient stones, photobombing a thousand tourists and consuming a hundred miles of spaghetti.

I am in Italy on holiday. Where I get pizza from is a Pizzeria, my baguette is from a Baugetteria and where I get my gelato-fix is at a Gelataria. The place selling wine is a Winneria, and you’ll be able to guess by now what a Birreria is. I have a query: Are their malls called Malaria?

But, I don’t ask. Every time a query or a complaint pops in my head, the dark, ominous music from The Godfather starts playing in my ears. I keep shut and smile like Monalisa.

We begin our sightseeing. It’s a demanding task that includes walking a million steps on roads paved with disobedient stones, photobombing a thousand tourists and consuming a hundred miles of spaghetti.

There are magnificent basilicas to be seen. There are separate tours for every level. Once you’ve taken each one of them, you collapse out of sheer fatigue. You now need an ambulance-aria to take you to the hospital-aria. Unless you are out of money after paying for the tours. Then, you just drag yourself to the pavement to sit with the beggars. They are all over the place.

Tourists are also swarming the place: Big-Mac sized American tourists, seaweed-like clumps of Chinese tourists clinging to each other, Indian tourists being bombarded with ‘namastes’ by hawkers selling trinkets, and for each of the above, 50 European tourists. They are pouring out of streets, shops,hotels, trains, trams and out of armpits of other tourists.

Though not entirely as fashionable as those in Paris or Milan or DLF Mall, Gurugram, people in Rome are well-dressed. The girls are wearing Prada, the boys are wearing Gucci, and the dogs are wearing Chanel.

I am wearing Nagendra’s jacket. In my defence, I had to borrow a jacket because I don’t live in a cold place. We are from warm climes. We are warm people.

We are warm and welcoming, unlike the waitress who curses us in when we ask for a change of tables. And then, when we ask for a tweak in our order, her eyes turned into cannolis of fire. Minutes later, she slams plates of food on our table without the tweak we have requested.

I am fuming while smiling like Monalisa. What can I do? I find my answer at the Vatican. No, not in a holy revelation but in Michelangelo’s frescos at the Sistine Chapel. Our guide, Maggie, tells us how he was annoyed with Biagio da Cesena, the papal master of ceremonies when Biagio told Pope Julius within Michelangelo’s hearing, that the big painting, with all its nudes, would be more fitting for a tavern wall than a chapel. So, while painting the Last Judgement picture on the Sistine Chapel wall, he paused to look at the devil Minos he was painting. Minos stood at the Gates of Hell just like St Peter stood at the Gates of Heaven.

Michelangelo found his revenge: he painted Biagio’s face on Minos, and, as a further mischievous touch, made sure there wasn’t any clothing on the figure.

Ahh, the perfect revenge!

I know what I will be doing. In my next book, there will be a restaurant called Cheapskatearia and the waitress will be Prickyanka Bogus.

Best-selling author Rachna Singh (www.rachnasingh.in) is a sit-down comedienne

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