|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|SETTING||College Canteen OR Restaurant|
Rome as the capital city of Italy conjures up images of the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum. It almost has history and untold historical tales in every corner of the city. Keats had written in his Ode On A Grecian Urn :
“ Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/ Are sweeter…”
The same lines seemed to reverberate in the ancient pillars of Roman art and architecture. Shireen had been to almost all the major cities of the world, thanks to her insatiable curiosity for knowledge and a globetrotting spirit and psyche. Both she has inherited from her parents who had made it a point that their only daughter should never stagnate in life. She has travelled far and wide from early childhood. Her father, Pratap Singh, a Senior Brigadier in the Indian Army , used to inspire his daughter with his words: “Reach out! The sky is your limit.”
Her mother Lovelyn Singh, is a social worker who has made the upliftment of the underprivileged street children , her sole vocation in life.
Shireen , after completing her Masters in Human Resource Management , had started an NGO of her own , ASHWAS which catered to the needs of the aged and the elderly. In between completing her studies and deciding on a suitable career option, she had travelled a lot. On a grant from the British government, she had spent two years in Europe touring different countries and gathering relevant materials and knowledge for her area of specialization.
It was on one of her travelling expeditions, that had taken to the capital Italiano, the city of Rome ( or Roma as the Italians call it ), that she met with and had come across a funny but sad incident that would leave an indelible mark on her psyche. Shireen had been forewarned by her relatives and friends against pickpockets and thieves , especially in cities like Paris and Rome. These are very expert hands and usually they work as a team. In our country, India, we too have a thriving population of this category of humankind , but their international counterparts , outwit them in their sheer craft and expertise.
It was in Rome that Shireen came across thugs who were reputed for their panache. She had just come out of the Colosseum , full of history and architectural splendour when she realized that her le estomac was making its emptiness felt and was also omniscient. She entered the nearest restaurant that she found and the look of which she acknowledged would suit her allowance for the day that she keeps aside for her own expenses from the grant. It was called The Pizzaria and what attracted her the most, was that the seating arrangements were made in the open, in the warm sunshine. She ordered a plate of pasta with her usual favourite mozorella cheese topping , a pizza and a cup of hot coffee.
From where she sat , she could see the other tables around her. As she waited for her food to arrive, she began scrutinizing and generally taking in the indolent ambience. A young couple ( to Shireen , at first glance , they appeared to be Indians too , like herself), were being approached by a pretty young lass, who was one of the attendants of the eatery. She was cooing and acting coquettish to the husband , who got so mesmerized by her looks that neither of them did notice that his bag which was kept on the ground , was deftly picked up by a young lad reading book at another table. The entire incident took place within couple of seconds! Shirren, being a mute witness, could hardly raise a cry because when both she and the poor , victimised Indian couple came back to their senses, the lass, the book-reading guy and the bag had vanished into the thin air.
“Oh! The bag had my passport inside! Now, how can I travel further?” the husband rued. “ We have to go back to our country!”
When Shireen approached the couple , the young wife was in tears while her spouse had a bewildered and estranged look. She tried to console them the best to her ability and came to know that they were from Gujarat. After giving them some precious and needful advices, and telling them to contact the Indian Consulate immediately, she patted the wife, Sarada, who had her passport intact. Without more ado, she told them to contact her if they get into any further trouble and also cautioned them against any such further mishaps.