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     Volume 7 Issue 49 | December 19, 2008 |

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A Roman Column


Neeman Sobhan

I want to rush outdoors and fling my arms out to the clear blue sky and embrace the sun. Finally! After a chain of soggy days and sodden nights of continuous and torrential rain, the sun is back.

Today, I am going around humming the song considered the most trite in the repertoire of any Italian singer; and which we Roman residents normally eye-roll at in a restaurant when a guitar-strumming, tourist-focused entertainer comes around to the table, and to the tune of Elvis' 'It's Now or Never' launches soulfully into: yes, 'O! Sole Mio!' or My Own Sun!

But today, the morning after the night before, when Rome was put on high alert for threat of the Tiber overflowing its banks, and citizens were urged to stay home and not venture into the city centre that spreads around the normally shallow Tiber, I finally noticed the words of the old Neapolitan song. Simple and timely, they spoke my feelings:

'Che bella cosa na jurnata 'e sole,
n'aria serena doppo na tempesta!'

(What a wonderful thing a sunny day,
the serene air after a storm!)

And what a storm it was, disgorging tons of water along with a whiplash of wind, as if the sky were one gigantic gargoyle spewing the wrath of heavens in the form of hailstorm and churning rain.

Two days ago, it was declared that Rome had seen more rain in one night than in a whole month. It was the night when many houses in Rome were flooded, including the neighbourhood we live in, which is a very pretty but low-lying area of Rome. So, parts of the basement apartment we built at the level of the back garden of our villa, were partially flooded.

Laura and Massimiliano, the sweet young couple who rent the place from us, were amazingly calm and collected when at two o' clock at night they called us to say that there was water inside the apartment. As landlords it was our duty to do something, but other than sloshing down to them with our concern and sympathy and waiting for the morning there was little to be done. They went off to spend the rest of the night at the house of Laura's Mamma. And the next day, with her mother's plumber in tow, Laura helped us resolve the problem. A pump that took away excess ground water had stopped functioning.

Others in Rome have not been so lucky and many have suffered considerable material damage. Some, in the centre of Rome have had to be evacuated from their homes. Hard as it may sound but I feel, now the world understands what it really means when Bangladesh is inundated, when even urban centres of Dhaka go under water.

The difference is that here in Italy, a concerned government was prepared for any disaster before it happened, and declared a state of emergency at the first sign of perceived danger minimising panic or any loss of life or property.

If it had rained today and the level of the Tiber had continued to rise, emergency measures would have been resorted to. The weather predictions for the rest of the week is still not clear, and we may have a very wet few days, but at least today we in Rome are basking in the sun, and full of relief and hope.

For me, in any case, Hope is the Sun. I have my own sun in my heart and in my life, and it never fails to shine on me because I know it is always there. Rain, hail or storm, I believe in my inner Sun. Every one has it and no cloud of negativity should ever be allowed to hide it.

Philosophically speaking, in my family I have the usual combination of Nay-sayers and the yay-sayers. Some members of my family constantly focus on the negative, saying its better to be 'practical and prepared for the worst case scenario'; while there are those like me, who constantly see the glass as half-full and don't want to waste time and emotional energy on the negative, concentrating rather on willing things to be wonderful. In my life I have found the spiritual energy and charge of positivism to be stronger than negativism. At least in my experience, wishing, praying and willing things to be good, causes good things to happen. This is not to say that I am so impractical and unrealistic that I would not know what to do if things went wrong. I know I can handle most situations, but my faith in the goodness of every outcome, gives me the strength to go through most adverse situations and normally causes matters to resolve themselves well.

Life has its ups and downs, and everyone knows days that weep like rain and nights that are dark with inner and outer tempests, but I have never known a day when the sun has not shone inside me. I am known to have a sunny temperament and this comes not from the sun in the sky, beautiful though it is, but from my faith in a Sole Mio which brings unending Joy even in the darkest moments of life.

In Neapolitan Italian a lover would sing 'O! Sole Mio!' to his paramour, but in life where everything is love, and the sun is every face, every relationship, every moment of every day, this is the anthem of every sunny, happy soul:

'Che bella cosa e' na giornata 'e sole
Ma n'atu sole,cchiù bello, oje ne'.
O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!'

(What a wonderful thing a sunny day
But another sun, that's brighter still
It's my own sun
that's in your face!)



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