The Hari Putar Dialogues - 19
(Gulf Times, 18th August, ROME (Reuters) - When in Capri, don't wander off the beach in a bikini. If you go to the sea in Eraclea, near Venice, remember that building sandcastles is forbidden. And don't even think about mowing your lawn at the weekend in Forte dei Marmi.
Public displays of affection in a car can earn you a fine of up to 500 euros ($745) in Eboli, feeding pigeons is off-limits in the centre of Lucca while in Novara groups of more than two people are forbidden from lounging around in parks at night.)
Putar: According to a Reuters report carried in the Gulf Times today, the Italian Government has imposed a series of bans on quite ordinary activities.
Hari: I haven't read that story, putar. What is this about?
Putar: There have been so many banned activities that Italian newspapers have dubbed this year's holiday season "the summer of bans."
Hari: But surely it will remain a summer of bans only if these bans are lifted in winter, putar?
Putar: Some of the bans are specific to the summer season. For instance there is a rule imposed in Capri that women should not wander off the beach in a bikini. Capri is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and a popular destination for Italian as well as foreign tourists.
Hari: In other words it's fine to wear a bikini on the beach but not outside the beach area.
Hari: That's very capricious on the part of the government. Is this to do with wearing revealing clothes, do you think?
Putar: I don't somehow think so, Papaji. The Italians are not so conservative.
Hari: But they are very fashion conscious, aren't they, putar? Perhaps that is why they have imposed an off beach dress code. Are the other bans also to do with the summer season?
Putar: There is another one related to the season. If you go to the sea in Eraclea, a small seaside resort near Venice, you need to remember that building sand castles is forbidden.
Hari: That's a very strange prohibition. Why should that be the case?
Putar: Can't imagine the reason, Papaji. There are other bans that are not summer related. For example there is a ban on mowing your lawn at the weekend in Forte dei Marmi.
Hari: Why should it concern the Government when people mow their lawns? I've heard that orthodox Christians disapprove of people working on Sunday, but that was decades earlier and here when they speak of the weekend that must include Saturday also?
Putar: Could be for the Seventh Day Adventists, who don't believe in working on Saturday instead of Sunday. But this is not all. Feeding pigeons is off limits in the centre of Lucca.
Hari: I can understand that. In London, they discourage people from feeding the pigeons at Trafalgar Square. There are simply too many of them now and I'm told that they can be quite a nuisance.
Putar: I thought pigeons were harmless, lovely birds.
Hari: Not according to some Londoners who have described pigeons as 'rats with wings'.
Putar: It's really odd that the Italians are doing this. It used to be said that in Germany everything is forbidden unless it is specifically permitted, but in Italy everything is permitted unless it is specifically banned.
Hari: If these kinds of bans stay in force, people will change their views of Italians. Italians are supposed to be an easygoing people who don't believe in too many rules, putar. They have their siesta as well, don't they?
Putar: It is said that the Southern Italians are much more relaxed compared to the Northerners. Listen to this. Public displays of affection in a car can earn you a fine of up to 500 Euros in Eboli. I suppose kissing and hugging would come within the definition of public display of affection.
Hari: That's a high price to pay for a kiss or a hug, putar. Better to step outside the car. More room to kiss and hug, and less expensive.
Putar: In Vicenza they have passed a law that doesn't even allow people to lie down in a park.
Hari: And what happens if you do, putar?
Putar: You get fined. Rodrigo Piccoli, 33, called national radio to protest after he was fined 50 Euros for lying down in a park to read a book. The mayor has since promised to drop the ban.
Hari: So are these the mayors of the cities that are passing these laws?
Putar: Yes, they are the ones. There is at present a nationwide crackdown on crime and a government decree giving mayors extra law-and-order powers. And so Italian mayors have issued a string of several bizarre by-laws to enhance "public decorum."
Hari: Maybe they are also doing this to raise money? Don't they say that traffic fines in Delhi increase just before Republic Day Parade?
Putar: That's possible of course. Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: In the town of Novara in Italy, groups of more than two people are forbidden from lounging around in parks at night.
Hari: I guess this is part and parcel of the strange banning activity, putar.
Putar: Do you think it would be okay if a husband and wife took along their small children to the park?
Hari: I suppose so, putar.
Putar: In terms of the law in Novara, they could all be arrested. Would children come within the definition of 'people'?
Hari: I don't know, putar.