Excerpt: Mappillai is a witty, personal tale of an Italian son-in-law and a look at contemporary India

Mappillai—‘son-in-law’ in Tamil—is the rollicking story of journalist Carlo Pizzati, a European living with his in-laws in urban Chennai and with his wife (writer Tishani Doshi) in rural Paramankeni. Here’s an excerpt from the book about how the affair didn’t start.
Journalist Carlo Pizzati, a European living with his in-laws in urban Chennai and with his wife in rural Paramankeni writes about contemporary India through his personal tales.
Journalist Carlo Pizzati, a European living with his in-laws in urban Chennai and with his wife in rural Paramankeni writes about contemporary India through his personal tales.
Updated on Oct 11, 2018 02:14 PM IST
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By Carlo Pizzati

I immediately emailed her: ‘I’m the guy you forgot having met.’ I offered to welcome her at the airport, but I only had my motorcycle. We agreed to meet the day after, so I could reciprocate her hospitality in India. We decided to meet in front of the Pantheon. What better setting, right?

The cover of Mappaillai.
The cover of Mappaillai.

I pranced into the illustrious Pantheon Square, chest filled with hope, perusing the cafes to find ‘the most beautiful woman in the world: There she was, sitting at a table with a caffi in her hand and next to her...some other Indian guy! Amrish, dammit!

Just a friend. From Delhi. But, obviously. So dearly obviously a suitor.

My normally passive nature in matters of the heart, which had mostly attracted overly complicated women who turned out to be no good for me, dissolved with a jolt. This woman brought out the patient seeker in me. I would pursue the matter; I would not give up right away, as I’d be inclined to do in my usual non attached sort of way.

I offered to chaperone both of them around.

Amrish really did not stand much of a chance. Not because of my impatient tour guide skills, which are famously next to nihil. But, because I was giving it my best.

And yet, once again, nothing happened in Rome. It

was time for yet another lucky coincidence, the third one, to kick in as we both had to travel to a northern Italian city with a breath-taking view of the snow-capped Alps.

We were launching our first books at the Turin Book Fair. I was there to send off into the world my non fiction journal about travels around the world investigating spirituality and technology. She was launching the translation of her first novel.

My publisher’s stall was on her way to the local bar and she’d stop by to see if I wanted to go have a coffee with her. My palpitations increased every time she surfaced through the flow of readers along the isles of the Lingotto former factory, where the salon was held.

I hid that excitement under the cloak of the mantra ‘Om Nama Shivaya Om Nama Shivaya’-let my excitement not show too much.

That lead to a dreamy, out of this dimension lunch in a restaurant on the banks of the Po River where, as we talked, flowers kept raining down from the pergola above us.

It was all too much, so I had to say it: ‘Too Bollywood! Really. Come on, let’s go:

I mean, I know I’m accused of being schmaltzy, but the industrial city of Turin was out-cheesing me in providing an incredible setting for falling in love.

So we’d walk along the river, talking and talking. I think I even over played the astrology card, as Tishani has been calling me, ever since, the male version of astrologer Linda Goodman. Yes, Pisces and Sagittarius, great combination, excellent, truly, absolutely, most definitely.

In a bookshop, we found a comic book of Corto

Maltese, a sailor-traveller character from my part of Italy who explores exotic lands. Dreamy and sentimental. Which is why on her phone, to this day, my nickname still is Captain Malteaser. Or is it Schmaltz-teaser?!

By that time, the Delhi suitor had shown up in Turin too, unrelenting as only a Dilliwalla can be. And yet, as I played it cool pretending not to have any ulterior motives, Amrish tried to put me down, mocking my Linda Goodman side, with little jabs like: ‘How can the entire world population have only twelve types of behaviour! Every day, Carlo! Really! Do you really believe that! Come on...’

Harmless jabs, part of a technique which ended up digging his own grave, tactically. Upon realizing it, he wisely decided it was exit time and off he went to Milan.

Still, it wasn’t happening. I’d never been an excessively straightforward, pushy man who gets what he wants and gets it fast. I was interested in the slow development, in the getting-to-know-each-other-and-letting-it-happen -unhurriedly.

Excerpted with permission from Carlo Pizzati’s Mappillai, published by Simon & Schuster.

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Monday, October 18, 2021