Ah! Brazil…So many beautiful people! So many beautiful memories! Where do I begin??? And where do I end??? If futball can bring the world together in a utopia like atmosphere where everyone is in love with the game, where words are not important, where communication with intentions and body language and miming take over it is simply a perfectly fine world.
The soccer fans are crazy, but in a country like Brazil, it is easy. It feels like a dream came true. The carnival like atmosphere, the people we met and the places we saw were simply unbelievable. How could the weather have been so perfect? How could the football fever have been so infectious? How could everyone be so happy? Everyone we met was simply happy to be there – no frustration, no anger, and no misery. The street sweeper cleaning the streets with pride, the guy in the bakery – spending all day wiping one table after another with a smile on his face.
Our family met some of the most polite people in Recife. A colourful band of singers at the train station looked at us excitedly as they asked, “You India?” and then started singing, “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna,” as they ushered us into the train headed in the direction of the soccer arena. The people in the train were helpful; without being overtly intrusive, they let us know which other train to catch and where to get down using sign language. When a couple seats finally becomes available on a train packed with people, no one made an attempt to sit, instead they offered those seats to us.
Fortaleza had the most fun loving people with the sun blazing away. The local street pedlars breaking into a song “ AAgua, Aagua, Aagua”, while selling water, or hot dogs – offering it one second and ready to break into a smile in the very next second. The guy selling hats could easily double the price of his hat, on this hot day, but he doesn’t even think of doing it. We buy two hats from him and move on. As we do, I see him coming behind us, he almost breaks into a run, a guy in his 60s, before I can offer him more money he takes a bow as he hands me a plastic rose. I feel special, as I walk proudly holding that purple plastic rose in my hand towards the futball arena.I think of giving it away to a little girl selling water but for some reason decide to hold on to it.
The soccer arena is a whole different ball game, it is like a carnival, with people walking around wearing jerseys, waving flags, wearing hats in the shape of hotdogs, beer mugs, cheese balls, face paints. My husband and sons find that their turbans fit in perfectly well in this atmosphere as people jostle over each other trying to take a picture with them, especially the Germans when they notice he is holding a Bayern Munich scarf. The Brazilians are not far behind, as they approach us smiling, some of them guess we are Indians the others ask. The excitement and joy that they feel when they come to know that we are of Indian origin is simply contagious.
The real live soccer game between Germany and Ghana is revelry in itself, with the Ghanian spectators dressed in traditional red costumes, beating their drums. The crowd singing, chanting, screaming and shouting as the whole cacophony reverberates through he soccer arena. The players from Ghana have me transfixed in their game, as their emotions are running high and I find myself rooting for Ghana while my family especially my son is a staunch supporter of Germany. Yes! The game ends in a thrilling draw.
The simple mile walk back to the bus is made interesting and memorable by curious local onlookers, some selling water and chips, others sitting outside sipping tea or coffee as they watch the throng of soccer spectators walking back. There was one person offering the use of her bathroom for 3 Brazilian Rial, another offering her homemade food for 5 Brazilian Rial, just another lady offering a chair for a little respite from the hectic day. Live music being played on the streets, as passersby take a break from their daily routine by dancing without a care in the world, curious little children clapping away joyously, as they watch futball spectators – people from all over the world -walk past them on their way home from the futball arena. Some of them point at my husband as they excitedly say, “Aladdin”. As we head back to the bus that takes us back to Fortaleza pria – “beach,” whole another throng of local people await us to take pictures and smile as they ask – Indiano? The next day we bid adieu to the soccer mania as we head for Rio.
After a whole day spent at the exotic botanical gardens and the evening at the Ipanema beach and dinner, we head towards our accommodation in Santa Teresa, when we descend from the cab, we see a celebration around the corner. There is an old bar that was closed last night, but is open today at 10:30 PM, some people are playing music without a care in the world, some people are joining in by clapping, singing or dancing, while others are eating and drinking, The bar owner invites us inside the bar and offers us some soup and a hot drink. There is a huge pot of soup, almost over and another huge pot of hot cider drink. Anyone is welcome to join in the celebration, be it a street vendor or a rich guy in a suit and there are all kinds of people having a good time.
A little girl is learning the dance steps as her mother holds her hand and guides her through what seems like a complex dance step, another lady is making little pizzas in an oven on a table setup at the other corner of the street. Another guy opens up the trunk of his car, it is loaded with cans of soda and beer. He is selling them. The music changes, a guy is playing the flute like they do in India, later on we learn that he has spent sometime there. I always dream of an inclusive world where everyone joins in and has a good time and here it is happening right in front of my eyes – for real.
We order two pizzas from the pizza lady, as we wander off attempting to walk on the steepest street in the neighborhood of Santa Theresa. It is fun to walk on cobblestone streets and on the tram tracks, once upon a time – a tram went up and down these steep streets. Walking up is an uphill task, but fun. As we come back and sit down by the circle of people, the lady gives us our pizzas and walks away, implicitly assuming that we will pay her later. I have never hung around a bar, but this is different, it is a community gathering and I feel safe. Some people say hello to us, some ask Pais? – country? Another guy makes sure we are comfortable as all the songs are in Portuguese, a language alien to us.
As we sit there comfortably enjoying the music at 11:30 PM, people gather around us – a fashion magazine editor from Bolivia, a cyclist who rode his bike for 60 days all the way from Chile, a filmmaker from France who is making a film about the kid escorts of the soccer players. All of them are talking in broken English, just so that we can be a part of the discussion. I sit at home in Helena reminiscing these wonderful memories, then I feel the purple plastic rose in my hand come alive.