‘Roman’ , ‘Romani’ and ‘Romanian’


While reading about Italy on internet I came across a word ‘Romani’ which represents a certain group of ethnic people of Europe.I , with my “self-proclaimed-omniscient” mentality , thought that they(Romani) must either be related with Rome or Romania.My guess was not wild or strange.I mean how many people would not think of ‘Hindi’ as language or people related to ‘Hind’ , ‘Hindustan’ or ‘India’. The structure of word ‘Romani’ would definitely suggest anyone to think along the path where I strayed , rightly because of phonetic and spelling similarity and wrongly due to lack of any actual knowledge of ‘Romani’ people.

Roman ! We all know that people residing under the rule of ancient Roman Empire were  historically called Romans or the people native to the present day country of Italy may be classified as Romans in technical terms if we consider Italy as present day successor of ancient Roman Empire.

Indians returning from trips to Europe usually tend to grouse about the rude rigidity of the Germans, the haughty froideur of the French, the extreme parsimony of the Dutch or the racism of the Austrians.

Italy, however, brings forth altogether different reactions: “They are friendly, garrulous, welcoming, and it is the only place in Europe that vegetarians can get a decent meal. But they are also thieves and double dealers. Given half a chance they’ll take the very shirt off your back and the shoes off your feet and you won’t even know how it happened, a bit like with the Bambaiya pickpockets. But then, you also somehow feel you are on familiar ground.”

The similarities , though not for positive things always , can be established on following behavioral pattern and social norm.

-Italians have very strong family bonding just like Indians and its not very unusual to live with parents after graduation or even after marriage.

-Italians seem to enjoy getting involved whenever there is a “situation” but just a little less actively than Indians.

-Italian Bureaucracy can be proved as frustrating and exhausting to deal with as Indian bureaucracy. 

-Italians are very superstitious just like Indians.For example in southern Italy people aren’t  supposed to trim their nails on Thursday just like in India where its advised not to have hair-cut or trimming of nails on Thursday.

 -Italian mafia controls large swathes of territory just like Land and drug-Mafia in India do.

-Italian police can be ‘managed’ to get rid of fines after paying a bucks or two as bribe.

-In Italy , corruption in public life and polity has become just an unavoidable reality just like India.

-In Italy you can find varieties of beggars , though well-dressed , like India.

-Italians don’t like to buy second-hand material and if they do they do it secretly. And that is why second-hand stores are rarely found in Italy or India.

There are many striking and startling similarities between these two nations and these can be construed as the reason why Sonia Gandhi , born and raised as Italian , has managed to do so well as politician in India. 😉

Without mentioning further about the similarities between India and Italy , I will tell you the reason why I brought those similarities in the discussion.The reason is to bring the attention of readers to an interesting observation that even though ‘Roman’ and ‘Romani’ people are not same they have striking similarities or ties with India.I tell you how.

Romanis, Roma or Roms, are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to the Indian Subcontinent. Romani are also widely known in the English-speaking world by the exonym Gypsies.

Linguistic and genetic evidence indicates the Romanies originated from the Indian subcontinent, emigrating from India towards the northwest no earlier than the 11th century. The Romani are generally believed to have originated in central India, possibly in the modern Indian state of Rajasthan, migrating to the northwest (the Punjab region, Sindh and Baluchistan of modern-day Pakistan and India) around 250 BC.

Irony ! Some people say that Aryans came from Outside.

The fact that there exist an ethnic minority in Europe , which migrated from India some thousand years ago , and have identity , culture and  language completely different from Indian diaspora is very  interesting , appealing and exciting enough for me to write here.

As for Romanians , Wikipedia says –

“The Romanian people are a nation in the meaning of ethnos (Romanian:etnie), defined by the sense of sharing a common Romanian culture,descent, and having Romanian as mother tongue, not by citizenship or by being subjects to any particular country.”

To me , the difference between these three spell-cousins are clear 🙂


5 responses »

  1. A famous Italian writer (I don’t remember his name now) declared that the Indians were the Italians of Asia. Your description made me smile.

    Did you meet any Roms in Europe ?

    • Helen , I didn’t even know that people like Roms , who came from India , even existed in Europe.I would have definitely meet them if I knew of them before visiting Europe.

      “Indians are Italians of Asia was not said by any Italian writer but an Australian writer , Mr Gregory David Roberts in the Novel ‘Shantaram’. the whole passage goes as following…

      ‘The Indians are the Italians of Asia,’ Didier pronounced with a sage and mischievous grin. ‘It can be said, certainly, with equal justice, that the Italians are the Indians of Europe, but you do understand me, I think. There is so much Italian in the Indias, and so much Indian in the Italians. They are both people of the Madonna – they demand a goddess, even if the religion does not provide one. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy, and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop at the corner. For them, food is music inside the body, and music is food inside the heart. The language of India and the language of Italy, they make every man a poet, and make something beautiful from every banality. These are nations where love – amore, pyaar – makes a cavalier of a Borsalino on the street corner, and makes a princess of a peasant girl, if only for the second that her eyes meet yours.”

      • An Italian writer did this comparison before Shantaram, I was offered his book but misplaced it.

        Roms, as you said, are gypsies, nomads. Probably you saw some but didn’t know who they were.

        I was wondering, did you wife like Italian fashion ?

        • Ok..I came across only “Shantaram” as the source for that quote.

          May be I saw some gypsies and took them as part of European population.It would have been good to tal to some of them.

          About the Italian Fashion , I should say that Romans Girls are very well-dressed and my wife loved Italian fashion .. we went through Milan but didn’t visit the city.

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