Thursday, 31 January 2008

Milano: my love-hate relationship (Part I)

Fashion. Food. Fun. Friction. Fiction. Yes, all these words are bound to come up when one thinks about the city I currently reside in...Milano. The name itself starts a film reel in the head, with frames of world class fashion shows, outdoor cafés with pretty red and white table cloths, cobbled streets with rickety trams, overwhelmingly grand architecture, young people frolicking along in their fashionable clothes and businessmen in their designer suits and busy schedules just scurrying along.

Then the film reel stops.

A slowly forming realistic painting creates itself on a white canvas. The palette has all kinds of colours. Along with the pastels and the brights, there are also lots of greyscale shades and dark tones. The artist, me in this case, draws from a fragmented set of observations which don't quite fit well together, but still proceed to form a picture... a juxtaposition of stereotypes and the unexpected. The picture completes, and forms an idea...and idea of a city, which people know by the name of Milan.

In true form, this city is full of contradictions. You expect an Italian city to have the typical italian features of a laidback life and a noisy neighbour, but Milan stands out like a sour thumb in the otherwise homogeneity of the rest of Italy. In a country where food, wine and art are close to worshipped, the Milanese hardly find time for decent meals..let alone appreciate art. Yet, you give time to a typical habitant of this city, and they'll definitely give in to their italian gene and settle down for a long meal. The legendary nosy neighbour doesnt exist at all, in fact, you hardly get to see who lives in you appartment building, except the times you see a random lady drying out laundry ten odd times a day! Unlike other cities in the country, you're more likely to come across bars, shops, banks and office buildings than outdoor cafés and black clothed ( with headscarf) nonnas ( grandmothers) .


Did I just mention shops? Let me apologise for just brushing past that so casually. If there's any religion Milano follows, it's shopping! I happen to be extremely pious in this sense, may god bless the fashion houses! I solemnly confess to be have fallen into the fashion frenzied hysteria that engulfs the city. Its there and you just can't avoid it. Try as you might, but the fashion just seeps into your daily life. Suddenly one day you realise, that you've actually started caring about what colour shoes would match the outfit you have to wear to your grandmother's. Yes, scary thought, but what can you do? Pretty may be an enormous understatement when you see the kind of clothes and shoes displayed on the shop windows. As many of my friends have admitted to, the sight of some of the shoes have nearly driven them to orgasmic pleasures. I can't explain it, you have to see it to believe it. And if you don't believe it, then Milan has LOT to teach you! As I said, its better to cave in early, cuz as the saying goes, if you can't beat them...

My life here just got interesting about a month back when I moved into my new apartment in the center of town. Having lived in suburbia for 2 years too long, i'd forgotten why people complain about traffic in the city. Try sleeping in the center, and you'd be reminded of it in a noisy fashion. Motorbikes are noisy. Honks are noisier. Both together...Italian traffic! Apart from that, I realised how many people just stay out till late at restaurants and bars, talking about pleasantly superficial day-to-day happenings and enjoying a few drinks with friends. Drinking is a time for socialising and I really admire the casualty involved with it. There's the typical italian affinity to a casual drink with friends, its like reliving a Leopardi poem.

There's a lot more to say...a lot more to recount and as usual, no time. So the rest will just have to wait, till I gather more meat for more Milan-disecting sessions.

The journey has just begun...

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