Tuesday, 28 September 2010

My Own Little Italy

I completed graduation in a place called Nitte. Nitte is a village, in wilderness, cut off by an hour and a half from the hustle and bustle of a city (Mangalore). There is nothing but tall trees all around the college, though we did have a hanging bridge, a waterfall and a beach close by in less than half an hours distance. But will nature suffice for the disco-going, beer-drinking college students of today? Obviously not. That is why I wasn't surprised when a friend of mine said one day, "What kind of a place is Nitte? What kind of a name is Nitte? Ugh. I hate this place. You know, my relatives keep asking, Nitte? Where is that? Never heard of it. The name sounds like no-man's land."

Now now, those of you thinking, "Yeah, me too. Nitte? Never heard of it." Nitte, as a place may not be heard of, but the college was famous in the state, which is the only reason people sent their kids to this forest to be trained to become engineers.

And then one day, Google Maps happened. "Nitte" was the first thing I typed into it, to test if it could find this place from the back of beyond. To my surprise, it did. "Whoa! This thing is cool!" I thought. I zoomed out to see if there were other places I could recognise. Nothing. "Hmpf. This is a forest. Maybe I don't know this forest that well" Zoom out. Nothing. Zoom out. Still nothing. Zoom out. Zoom out. Zoom out. Italy. "Whaaaat? Italy?" Google Maps had taken me to Nitte, a place in Italy. "Wow! I could go to Italy and say I lived in Nitte, and people would know." I dashed out of the room into the friend's room and said, "Guess what? There's a place called Nitte in Italy. Look." "Woww! This is going to be a slap right across my aunt's face."

Cut to today, I was reading about Maurizio Cattelan's provocative, satirical sculptures -- because of this --
A sculpture called "crippled hand" from Italian sculptor Maurizio Cattelan is placed in front of stock exchange palace in Milan September 25, 2010. Credit: Reuters/ Stefano Rellandini
Cattelan's bio read "Born in Padua, Italy". "Padua? Hey, that's a place in Mangalore! First Nitte, now Padua. I wonder what other places in Mangalore have Italian names."

Belman, the bus-stop before Nitte. Could easily be mistaken for Belmonte, a place in Italy and many other countries. In fact, I called the place Belmonte for a long time until someone pointed out it was "Belman" and not "Belmonte".

And how could I forget Valencia, where I spent over 12 years of my life and 11 years of schooling. [Valencia is not in Italy but in Spain (of course, you know that), but it appears it's a very common name for a place. There's a Valencia in Pakistan, also Columbia, Phillippines, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru].

So next time somebody asks me where I am from, I'm going to say Italy. *wink*

Come to think of it, Mangalore is a place with funny locality-names actually. But that'll be another post another day.

Update [April 26, 2011, 01:49 a.m.]
I cannot believe I missed mentioning something so close to my heart. My school - St. Gerosa High School - is named after an Italian saint, Vincenza Gerosa.

Vincenza Gerosa (born in the late 1700s), along with Bartolomea Capitanio, founded the Sisters of Charity of Lovere. Incidentally, Capitanio is another school a few kilometres from my own school. The buildings opposite to my school belong to the Sisters of Charity. They run an orphanage, a primary school for the financially weak and a day care centre, where I was sent for a short period, if I remember right.

I recall now, every once in 3-4 years, our teachers would announce the arrival of sisters from Italy, and when they arrived, we'd have a special assembly for them, with dances and songs and skits. It was a huge deal. We would go the chapel to pray (The chapel is inside the school campus. The building is out of bounds for students, per se, unless you say you want to go to the chapel to pray), but more importantly to greet the sisters from Italy. They were ever so sweet. The serenity and smile on their faces were only paralelled by Mother Superior who'd visit once in a while. I never missed an opportunity to greet her whenever I heard she was there. Her serene smile would make my day. The only other famous person with a smile like that is Mother Teresa. But, I digress.

I think my sister's school too - St. Agnes High School - is named after another Italian saint whom they call "Agnes of Rome", though it isn't run by the Sisters of Charity.

This Italian-ness of Mangalore intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper into its history as to why so many places in and around Mangalore have Italian names. The Christians in Mangalore are from Goa and of Portuguese descent, not Italian. And as far as my knowledge on Indian history goes, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British arrived in India before the British Raj was set up. So now it's even more intriguing.


Lakshmi Patro said...

Hey Manasa...Thats a nice post. You know there is a place called Saki Naka in Mumbai. Its sounds like a Japanese name. Hehehe

Manasa said...

Hehehehe. Ya, so typically Japanese. I find the name Chinchpokli very funny.

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