Friday, January 29, 2016

My dream tour of Brazil during World cup 2014 - land of jogo bonito !

BEFORE LEAVING KOLKATA -    The Scene before going to Brazil

I am reproducing what appeared in The Telegraph on 6.6.14. (with some editing)

 “Pobre Indiano. Nao me roube ( Poor Indian. Don't rob me) my survival kit for Brazil includes these words in Portuguese that I have got customized - printed on a T- shirt bought at Maidan Market for Rs 100 and words printed @ Rs 3 per word (both back side and front side) .

People hae been warning me about theft in Brazil. I thought it prudent to appeal to the better nature of potential strikers, the only place in the world where muggers will leave you untouched, if they see you are a supporter of their club. So they are unique in every sense of the term. 

As renowned journalist Roger Cohen said do not be cowed by alarmist tales of thievery and thugs. “Pagar para ver,” the Brazilians say, or very roughly don’t curb your curiosity in the name of caution .

Watching “Giants of Brazil” in 1980s made me fall in love with Brazil and their love for jogo bonito or the beautiful game.My  closest encounter with Brazilian football before this was in 2002, when I was based in Delhi. I had read about Ronald Machado (click here for his picture), the husband of the then Brazilian ambassador (click here for her picture), playing with Garrincha (and also a friend of Garrincha) and written to the embassy about my passion for the game and admiration for Garrincha. The World Cup was on at the time and I got an invitation to watch the matches at the embassy with the other Latin American ambassadors and also attended their World Cup party. click here for the news in Indian Express .
Later I took an amazing interview of Ronald Machado. click here to read more Tete-tete-with-ronald-machado

The Delhi experience made me  a “worshipper" of Jogo bonito (the beautiful game) and I maintain a large collection of football videos, contemplate the possibility of watching a World Cup in a host country someday.

I couldn't go in 2006 as I hadn't saved enough and missed the one in 2010 because the recession had dragged down the value of my stocks. With this edition of the tournament happening in Brazil itself, I just had to go, even if it meant selling off an apartment that I had invested in. But Brazil is very expensive country. I  have saved around Rs 3 lakh for the trip while travel agencies were said to be charging Rs 6 - 9 lakh for 2- week package tours. My plan to stay there close to a month made Mission Brazil look even more intimidating.

Fifa brought the trophy to Kolkata before the World cup

When I last checked, dormitory bunk beds were going for Rs 8,500 a night ahead of the “good matches". Fortunately I had a friend's uncle to fall back on. Babu S. P. Narahari, a bachelor from south India, has been based in Santos since 1969 and will play host to me, when I am not travelling across south and central Brazil. I take Babu Mama around whenever he comes to Calcutta, so he was there for me. But I needed accommodation elsewhere too.

Out of desperation, I posted an appeal on the online forum of a global cultural exchange group. As a member of the group, I had previously hosted foreigners visiting Calcutta and thought that someone would do me a similar turn in Brazil.

Strong online recommendations from each of my guests in Calcutta, including by a Brazilian friend named Hugo Sampio, whom I had taken to Mohun Bagan Football Club and met Barreto there, clinched the deal for me.

My first attempt at buying match tickets was during a Fifa online lottery in end - January. It landed me a ticket to a Portugal- Ghana match. 
click here to see the ticketing process
In March, another round of bookings opened on the Fifa site. But our server was down for an hour and a half and by the time I could log in, tickets to the best matches were gone. It was not an easy task for a middle class Bengali to afford final ticket. In Brazil the quarter final ticket was sold at $1,000 in black market.
Ticket price
Match schedule
To know more about the world cup click here

I had to be content with tickets to three second- rung matches. Another Calcuttan whom Babu Mama has agreed to host on my request and recommendation, repaid the favour by helping me to  get a ticket for a match featuring Brazil. That person is none other than Pannalal Chatterjee – which is his 9th  world cup! He is going with his wife, nephew and a friend. I met him at his house number of times before the world cup. If you meet him once then you will understand you don’t need lot of money to pursue your dream. It is the passion which matters and little bit of planning.

I will put on my yellow jersey and cheer my favourite team as the Samba boys take on Cameroon in Brasilia on June 23. Before that, I have dates with Belgium and Algeria on June 17 and Columbia and Ivory Coast on June 19. I will watch a match each featuring Portugal and England as well.

Until the start of the week, I have been spending nights trying to book long - distance bus tickets online. Portuguese posed the biggest problem before my new found Brazilian friends pitched in. I sent them an SOS on WhatsApp to Douglas Moreira and Hugo, who taught me that todos meant all stations and comprar was the command to buy a ticket.

But when CFP turned out to be social security number, and CIP the zip code, I was again all at sea. Rodolpho Cammarosano de Lima, one of my hosts in Brasilia, offered his own address and other details and it was 4 am when I went to sleep after buying the first of the bus tickets. Till a couple of days back, I did not have a host in Rio de Janeiro. I had written to a girl (friend of my friend Debashree) seeking accommodation in the famous hillside favelas. They are much better than our slums. The rent would be cheaper and I would get to stay where Garrincha did!

I got an invitation from Suhaila Terra Brito, a doctor's wife – who is a friend of Debashree (she stayed in Rio for 6 months with her husband) at the last moment.

In Rio, I did not have a match ticket but I have booked my place in a football match organised by locals for fans from across the world. I would have to pay a fraction of the venue rent. I have told them that even if I get to tap the ball once,I am in. 13.7.14.

I have taken Yellow fever vaccination from Marine house, Hastings, Kolkata 22, near Kidderpore (2 223 - 0414 , 9432 800 780). It is valid for 10 years, I have been told. Interestingly Brazilian consulate office waived visa fees for the world cup.



I left for Bombay or Mumbai on 6.6.14. by train. Suddenly before I boarded the train, all my pain, with I have to live 24 hours a day, vanished in thin air ! I reached Mumbai on 8.6.14. early morning. My world cup dream would have ended in Mumbai itself. I am not used to carrying suitcase. At Lokmanya Tilak train (LTT) station I took a shared auto to go to the bus station. I left the auto with only my backpack. At the bus station I suddenly realized I have left my suitcase in the auto rickshaw! I rushed to the auto stand and was lucky to find my auto. My passport, forex everything was in the suitcase!!

Then I took a bus to go to Santacruz and from there I took an auto rickshaw to reach my host’s house in Juhu Tara Road. Nihar Mehta my host is a friend of my Naga friend Phejin (Initially I planned to stay with my school friend’s house. But at the last moment he had to go for an official tour). This is for the first time I have stayed with a Gujrati family. They are really nice and educated people and extremely hospitable to a completely unknown person. There is nothing I can complain about. I had some wonderful Gujrati food in their house. Like Bengalis they travel a lot. Just beside their building complex is the house of Kishore Kumar. One can even see the sea from their house.

When I reached their house, Nihar was not there as he left for some urgent work. I took a ride from Nihar’s father and he dropped me at a bus stop and from their I left for famous India gate. Interestingly didi’s friend Sudeshna friend also reached Bombay on the same date. He came here for interview of Amir Khan! I got down near Barre Mian restaurant. I have heard so much about the restaurant. I tried their signature dish – Barra Kebab. It was really good. But let me tell you the Barra Kebab in Taam’s beneath Priya cinema is equally good, if not better. Also there are many restaurants which are as good as this one. Then I left for Gateway of India – which is nearby. There are tours to Elephanta cave. But today I skipped it for my other programmes. Just in front of Gateway of India is Taj Mahal Hotel - which has become very famous because of terrorist attack. 

Then I had some sugarcane juice from Gupta Sugarcane at Apollo Bunder, Dhanraj Mahal, Gateway of India for around Rs 15. It is available all over Bombay. On the way I saw the famous Regal cinema.  I also had some Pao Bhaji for around Rs 20. Then I came back home by taking a train from Church Gate and got down at Santa Cruz. From there I got a bus to come to Juhu Tara Road.

In Bombay, the minimum taxi fare is Rs 19 and auto fare is Rs 15 for 1 km. The bus fare is around Rs 10 and it increases depending upon the distance. The tea from local stall is around Rs 6. I did not find street food of Bombay expensive.

People generally use trains to commute from “town” to suburbs. There are two most important stations is Bombay – one is Victoria Terminus and the other is Church Gate. For most people the most important one is the Church gate. Since the train which leaves from Church Gate goes to the suburbs (North West). And the one from VT goes towards right (North East) – although they meet at Dadar inter connection. I took the Church gate train every day. In the evening we went to Bombay Gymkhana with Nihar along with his Bengali friend Sukanya (she works in Star TV and stays very near to his house). It was really a nice experience. We had a nice dinner over there. On the way back he has shown me the house of Amitabh Bachchan !


Today I left for “Town” and planned for a walking tour. It started from Gateway of India. Then I took the Shivaji Marg , MG Road, Veer Nariman Road and ended at Church gate train station.

Gateway of India is the starting point for most tourists who want to explore the city. It was built as a triumphal arch to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, prior to the Darbar in Delhi in December 1911.

I then walked towards the Regal Theatre. Opened in 1933, designed by Charles Stevens with the interiors designed by Karl Schara, Regal Cinema lent its name to Regal Circle and was the only Art Deco cinema when it opened. The Governor of Bombay formally inaugurated Regal Cinema in 1933. It was the first of Bombay's Art Deco cinemas. Regal Cinema was fully air conditioned, and had an underground parking lot for patrons. There was a lift up from the parking lot, a major innovation at that time.

Just after Regal circle, I saw Prince of Wales Museum building from outside. Designed by George Wittet, the foundation stone was laid in 1905 by the visiting Prince of Wales. The building was completed in 1914, converted to a military hospital during World War I, and finally opened in 1923 by Lady Lloyd, the wife of Sir George Lloyd, then governor. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India) is one of the premier art and history museums in India. Just beside it is Jehangir art gallery. I went to see the exhibition inside.

Located opposite to the Museum is the majestic facade of the late 19th-century Elphinstone College, a Gothic-Victorian-style university campus, replete with stone balconies.
On the way (opposite to the college) I saw the store of fashion designer Sabya sachi Mukherjee. Just opposite to his house is Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue. I went upstairs. Then I walked further to find Bombay Stock Exchange.

 Also on Mahatma Gandhi Road, slightly further north of the Elphinstone college, you'll pass another historic building, the 19th-century David Sassoon Library, significantly funded by the affluent Jewish businessman, David Sassoon. I went inside the building and had a cup of tea at the counter for Rs 5. Adjacent to the library, on same road is the Army and Navy Building. Worth a look for its fine mid-19th-century neo-classical facade, this building was originally used as a British army navy store.
Then I walked towards the Flora Fountain. This is a stone fountain situated in Fort business district in the heart of South Mumbai. Flora Fountain was built in 1864. The fountain depicts the Roman goddess Flora. It is now a heritage structure. It was erected by the Agri-Horticultural society of Western India.

After that I went to see the Horniman circle. I walked further and visited the High Court of Mumbai. The work on the present building of the High Court was commenced in April 1871 and completed in November 1878 and is situated between the University Building and the Public Work Secretariat. Next to the Court is the University of Bombay which was established in the year 1857 at Town Hall. It was relocated in 1874 to the new complex near Oval Maidan. It is one of the esteemed universities of the country and amongst the top 500 universities of the world.

There is a park just opposite to the court and University. I encircled the park and saw people playing cricket over there. On the other side of the park are some nice art deco buildings. After walking for some more time I took the train from Church gate Train station to reach Nihar’s home.
In the evening we left for a lovely drive with Nihar and his friend Sukanya and her sister along the famous Marine drive to Nariman Point. We also had some ice cream at Naturals. Then he took me to famous Sivaji Park. We planned to meet a friend of Nihar and Sukanya who went to Brazil all alone. But somehow we could not meet each other.


Today I went to Nihar’s wonderful showroom near his house. He sells artefacts from all round India. One can get almost all types of handicrafts of India in his shop. If  you are in Bombay it will make sense to go to his showroom instead of searching all round Bombay – where you can get almost everything under one roof. It is Tribal Route at Cottage Number 18 Aram Nagar 2, J.P. Road, (Versova Beach Road) Versova, Andheri (West),  Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

After spending some time there and having some wonderful Pao Bhaji I left for town. Then I went to the Victoria Terminus Railway Station now called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It is a historic railway station and serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. The station was designed by Frederick William Stevens, a consulting architect in 1887-1888, for the princely sum of 16.14 lakh rupees. The station stands as an example of 19th century railway architectural marvels for its advanced structural and technical solutions. It was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 2, 2004.VT is quite a sight.

I walked around that place for some time.

Today I planned to visit the beaches. I went to the beach near Juhu Tara road. In the beach you can find families spending time on the beach. It was Chocó block. There is hardly any space. There I saw people selling famous Bhel puri . There are also lines of shop selling Pao Bhaji, Bhel Puri. But I understood that though Bhel Puri may have its origin in Bombay , the one which we get here in Kolkata is in a different league. After spending some time in the beach I decided to come back to  buy some stuff. Very near to Nihar’s house there is a semi slum area – where I met some Bengalis selling Fish. I bought some stationeries for my Brazil trip which I forgot to buy in Kolkata near Nihar’s house. For the first time I walked near his house. That place reminded me of Panditia.

11/6/14 & 12/6/14

My plane is around 4.30 am on 11.6.14. (IST) Nihar dropped me at the airport.  There are many misconceptions about Brazil in India. The general misconception is Brazil is a very poor country, which is not true . Brazil with a population of 20 Crores ( which is 1/6 of the population of India ) the per capita income of Brazil is 7 times than that of India. I always thought, Brazil which is famous for formula car racing way back in 1994 - cannot be a very poor country. Brazil is a manufacturer of  Embraer aircraft, pinoeer in transition to alternative transport fuels. (its sugarcane ethanol "the most successful alternative fuelto date), they have propriety knowledge in oil exploration method, it is the largest producer of coffee and sugar   also. I have heard that in Sao Paulo, rich people use helicopter to commute. São Paulo has the largest fleet of helicopters in the world, with around 500 registered helicopters and 700 flights per day in the city. There are 420 helicopters registered in São Paulo, a total second only to New York.  All these things crossed my mind.

Some more information on Brazil

Brazil is the fifth largest country in terms of size (more than 2.5 times than India) in the world. From the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Pernambuco and Bahia, the wilderness of the Amazon rainforest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguaçu Falls, there is plenty to see and to do in Brazil. Iguaçu Falls looks grander from the Argentinian side. All the travel agents from India take the tourists to this falls.

Brazil was inhabited solely by indigenous people, mainly of the Tupi and Guaraniethnic groups. Settling by the Portuguese began late in the 16th century, with the extraction of valuable wood from the pau brasil tree, from which the country draws its name. 
Brazil was settled by the Portuguese and not the Spanish, as were the rest of Central, South and parts of North America in the New World. 
Despite Portuguese rule, some parts of Brazil formed a Dutch colony between 1630 and 1654. In 1665 the Peace Treaty of The Hague was signed, Portugal lost its Asian colonies and had to pay 63 tons of gold to compensate the Dutch Republic for the loss of its colony.
Brazil became the centre of the Portuguese Empire by 1808, when the King Dom João VI (John VI) fled from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal and established himself and his government in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The following four centuries saw further exploitation of the country's natural riches such as gold and rubber, alongside the rise of an economy based largely on sugar, coffee.
Meanwhile, extermination and Christianizing of natives kept its pace, and the 19th and 20th Century saw a second wave of immigration, mainly Italian, German (in southern Brazil), Spanish, Japanese (In São Paulo State) and Portuguese, adding to the set of factors that generated today's complex and unique Brazilian culture and society. Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation on September 7, 1822. Until 1889 Brazil was an Empire under the rule of Dom Pedro I and his son Dom Pedro II. By this time, it became an emerging international power. Slavery, which had initially been widespread, was restricted by successive legislation until its final abolition in 1888.
Music plays an important part in Brazilian identity. Styles like choro,samba and bossanova are considered genuinely Brazilian. A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira was brought to Brazil by African slaves, mainly from Portuguese Angola

The skin typically darkens as the social class gets lower : wealthy upper-class people are mostly white; many middle-class are mixed; and the majority of poor people are black.
While Southerners may be somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio upwards people usually boast a captivating attitude towards life and truly enjoy having a good time. Some may even tell you that beer, football, samba, barbecue and women is all they could crave.
Friendship and hospitality are highly prized traits, and family and social connections are strongly valued. Brazilians are reputedly one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration. 
Brazil is still a nation faced towards the Atlantic, not towards Hispanic America, and the intellectual elites are likely to look up to Europe, especially France, as sources of inspiration, rather than the US. Many aspects in Brazilian society, such as the educational system, are inspired by the French.
Train service within Brazil is almost non existent. However, there are exceptions to the rule, including the Trem da Morte, or Death Train, which goes from Santa CruzBolivia, to a small town just over the border from Corumbá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul.
In Brazil cars are driven on the right hand side of the road.·Keep the doors locked when driving, especially in the larger cities, as robberies at stop signs and red lights are quite common in some areas. Be equally careful with keeping your windows wide open, as someone might put their hands inside your car and steal a wallet.

In the plane I met many Indians who works in West Africa. I met one of them who works in TVS Motors - who is going to Burkina Faso, Congo etc. First we got down at Addis Ababa and waited for 3 hours to catch another plane to go to Lome, capital of Togo. I had wonderful lunch in the plane and had red wine free of cost in the plane ! At Togo a huge contingent of Ivory Coast fans got up and completely filled up the half empty plane. I remembered a player from Togo came to play for East Bengal football club !
Inside the plane atmosphere had already started.  We were headed for the greatest carnival  on earth and the party had already begun.We were cruising at 35,000 ft. A group of Ivory Coast supporters in the dead of night, dressed in colourful gear they sprung to life, parading down the aisle, singing and playing trumpets and maracas. 

I reached Sao Paulo or or Sampa  around 11.30 pm (Brazilian time) without any problem. Brazil is 8.30 hours behind Indian time. Hugo, my Brazilian friend who had stayed in our Rashbehari Avenue home during a trip to India, was there to receive me at the airport. I am meeting him after more than 4 years – though we were in touch through email. He drove me to his father's house. We reached home at around 12.30 pm. We took the road called Ayrton Senna (one of our beloved formula one icons - who died in an accident) Avenue. Other than a swimming pool, the housing complex had a futsal ground. This five- a- side variant of football is tremendously popular in Brazil. I had seen on YouTube how skilled these players are in dribbling and juggling. Hugo gave me a quick introduction to Brazilian lifestyle. One point that stood out: the necessity of a bath! " We Brazilians hug a lot, so we bathe two- three times a day," he said. We had nice dinner at his home. His mother was sleeping and his father was out of Sao Paulo for some official work. There was a guest room allotted to me. His father is a landscape architect.Their house looks fashionable and nice. 

I gave them my small gift from Nutangram and patachitra (with tribal couple picture) for his mother. His mother liked it so much that his mother gave it as a gift to him after laminating it in December 2015 for his marriage in 2016 – since it will bring good luck to them !

Hugo at his dinner table

São Paulo is both the name of a state, as well as, a city.  Those born in the city of São Paulo are called “Paulistanos.”  Those born in the state of São Paulo but, not in its capital, are called “Paulistas.” To illustrate, there are three “Paulistanos” soccer teams in the first division of the national league: Portuguesa, São Paulo and Corinthians, which is the only billionaire soccer club in Brazil. Babu Mama supports Corinthians and hates Santos ! Socrates played for Corinthians and Botafogo mostly.

My write up on Socrates is here - the most versatile player ever known to me socrates-legend-there-will-be-only-one.html

São Paulo is home to the world’s largest gay parade. 

I got to know that Hugo got a job just yesterday. After dinner we went to sleep after chatting for some time and when I got up it was already late – around 11 am.

Since I would leave for Santos in the evening, first he took me to Jabaquara metro/ bus station to acquaint me with that place. The bus station at Jabaquara is connected to the metro station (like Singapore).The we went to have our lunch - salgado ( snacks) counter in some place. I gave him the treat. Then he took me to Fifa Fan Fest, where a giant screen had been put up for the inaugural match of the world cup. We took a metro to reach there. The place is called Anhangabaú.

His friends from US  joined us at fifa fan fest after the interval. But the huge crowd and the lack of seats made us beat a retreat at half time. 

We saw the rest of the match in his home (we took a metro – his house is very near to a metro station). We missed part of the second half .

Soon I gathered it was their Valentine's Day. I bid them adios (goodbye) and left for the metro station to go to the home of my friend's uncle. I was wearing a T- shirt made to order at Maidan market that had the words " Pobre Indiano. Nao me Roube " ( Poor Indian. Do not rob me) printed on it. As I was walking to the bus stop, a group of youths  spotted it and burst out laughing. This T- shirt worked as a conversation- starter throughout my trip and opened my eyes to the high regard Brazilians have for India. One of the youths, Wallachiæ Weywoden, was a theology teacher and had read The Mahabharata and Bhagabat Gita . I met her girlfriend Maria Thereza Rodrigues too and other friends like William Santos.We are all now fb friends.

After talking to them for some time we exchanged our Ids and I left for Jabaquara by metro – which is incidentally the last metro stop in the southern part of Sao Paulo. After getting down at Jabaquara I bought a bus ticket. All the counters of bus tickets accept plastic cards. The fare to Santos is R$ 20 ie Rs 580 for 1.30 hour journey.  Any bus having a journey of one hour or more had beautiful toilets (just like aeroplanes). The roads were silk smooth and had no jams. . When I reached Santos it was already 10 pm. Babu Mama’s (I met him number of times in Kolkata) house is just in front of the beach. So I got down just in front of his house. Luckily my bus instead of stopping at customary Santos bus depot stopped little later, so I did not have to change the bus at the bus depot or Rodoviaria (pronounced as Hodoviaria !) to catch a local bus. Babu Mama stays in a multi-storeyed house in front of the beach. He stays in the 10th floor if I remember it correctly. There is a nice view of the Praia or Beach from his room.

Santos is a port city in the state of Sao Paulo. While Pele remains its biggest mascot, having played for the local club all his life (till retirement – after which he left for Cosmos, USA) — he is on billboards endorsing products — Robinho and Neymar has been the recent star.


In the morning Mama took me to a local market. He was bit annoyed with my volley of questions! What is this ? What is that ?  On the way to the market I saw some cafeteria where Pele used to come during his day in Santos.


Then he took me to the supermarket where I got my sim card from Vivo. I paid 13$ (380/-) for 250 MB data and some very limited amount of voice. I did not go for the lowest ones like Claro or Tim or Oi. e.g. Claro has a plan especially for visitors that is 60 reals and works for 2 months, some amount of free texts/minutes, 300MB of 4G data.  Apparently VIVO and Claro are the best ones.You have to pay R$10.00 or US$ 4.51 for the SIM.
After coming back, I watched the matches with Babu Mama in his room. There are three matches today. After the second match I went to see the wonderful beach. When I reached there the game was almost over. They saw me clicking pictures and we started talking to each other.
I learnt that Brazil's current superstar Neymar Jr too has played here for long. In fact he stayed far too longer for a person of his calibre – because of his love for Brazil. 

That has endeared him among the Brazilians even more. It was touching to see how deeply they love him. All over Brazil I have seen only one Tee shirt. Out of 100 Tee shirts I have seen probably astoundingly 98% is Neymar. One of my non-Brazilian friends in Brazil told me rather angrily as if he is the only icon.

They had amazing skills to say the least even at that age. (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO) 

click here for glimpses of their skill.

Soon we became friends. One of them is doing Engineering and speaks good English. (Some of them are my facebooks friends now). After the match I asked them to show me a departmental store from where I can buy some Salami and bread. Not only did they show me , they also went inside and helped me to choose the one ! They are really nice (I even called one of them later, for free, in November 2014 through facebook messenger. ) Since Mama does not eat during lunch time, so I had to make my own arrangements. In the dinner too he eats very little.  He does enjoy a glass of bear every day and has a specific place in the beach where he drinks his beer.


Today is the day when the Pele Museum will be opened to public. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was to inaugurate it, along with Pele. I got the news from Babumama. Babumama does not subscribe to any newspaper. He watches the news from TV /internet. So I went to the “Pele museum” in the morning by taking a local bus , as advised by Babu Mama. I met an old man who is a supporter of Santos and is also going to the inauguration ceremony. His jersey bears the ORIGINAL signature of Pele. I knew the signature of Pele since I have practiced the signature of Pele at least 200 times in my life ! 

Signature of Pele on his shirt

But unfortunately he does not speak English. I made up with my little Spanish and google translator. Of course my 3 month crash course of Spanish in Kolkata helped. What Bengali is to a Oriya, Spanish is to a Portuguese and what Bengali is to Assamese, Italian is somewhat to a Spanish !

I told him if he helps me to meet Pele, I will be indebted to him rest of my life. Given the political atmosphere, that drew a horde of protesters to the venue and I couldn't get in till all the guests had left. Nobody could enter. I met another lady who has also a signature of Pele on her chest. So I tried to enter from side, but unfortunately all the roads or alleys leading to the museum is closed. There was a barricade everywhere.

Then I went to a weekend market of fruits. I bought some fruits – which were very cheap by Brazilian standard (by Indian standard it is reasonable ). So three / four plastics were hanging from my hand. Then it was time to come back home. But I suddenly decided to make another attempt to enter the museum with fruits in my hand. Thankfully it was already open to public, since VIPs have left.  So I had to be content seeing his boot and jersey instead of the legend himself. I had some free coffee there.

After returning back from the museum I watched some matches with Mama. In Brazil normally people watch match in a pub along with friends over a glass of beer.

In the afternoon I played football with local kids on the beach and even scored a goal even with my damaged back ! I made more facebook friends. Today I went to see the biggest departmental store in Santos – Tesco. I bought some staff from there.


Today, I set off for the Fifa office in Sao Paulo by bus to collect the match tickets I had booked on the Fifa site. It took some effort for me to trace the fifa ticketing centre. However I enjoyed the walk in a new city. At the ticket centre I collected my tickets and cancelled the ticket of Pannada. When I was collecting the ticket the match was going on.

From there  I went to the Japanese part of Sao Paulo (Liberdade) by taking a metro. I walked around that place. I found it quite interesting. There was a weekend market on that day. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside Japan. Then I went to an art gallery which was free. I was very impressed by the standard of the gallery. Then I went to the famous train station of Sao Paulo which is just nearby.

Taxi in Brazil is prohibitively costly. According to Rodolpho in Brasilia for a 15 minute journey from airport to his house is 40 R$. So is telephone, especially the pre- paid ones. They all use WhatsApp. When I called him that day. The two- line conversation cost me R$ 1.65 ( Rs 47)! Then I took the metro to go to Jabaquara and took bus to go back to Santos.


After staying few days in Santos, I left for a new city. Today I took a early morning “free bus service” to go to Santos Bus Depot (Rodoviaria) to take a bus to go to Tiete Rodoviaria in Sao Paulo. First I got down at Jabaquara bus depot and then took a metro at  Jabaquara (there is a bus as well as metro there) to go to Tiete for going to Belo Horizonte for my first match on 17.6.14. The bus driver can be passed off as MD of our company with his appearance, dress code  ! You cannot miss out his elegance, grace and ever smiling face . 

The bus company is Viacaocometa. Another good company is Itapemirim - bus (or Otobus or Autoboos !) starts at 9 am morning and after 8 hours you reach Belo Horizonte. Beautiful horizon That's what Belo Horizonte, my next destination, means. By now, I had figured out that whatever the distance, city buses and Metros had flat rates, around R$ 3. For the 65 plus, it's free. So Pannada did not buy any bus ticket for local travel ! But long- distance buses are costly, nearing flight rates on some routes. It is not an exaggeration to say that in the 8 hr bus journey the bus did not stop for even one second at red light (at least till I was awake) nor did not remember a single jerking throughout my journey. The roads were silk smooth. Even the villages were beautiful and clean. The idea that Brazil is a poor country was dumped very soon. Because of its footballers who come mostly from the favelas (slums), we Bengalis probably have this very wrong notion.In fact, India will need a few decades to reach their level of development.

The bus stopped for lunch at a shopping mall type of place. Where you are given a form at the time of entry. Whatever you buy or eat is entered in the slip. The food you take from a buffet is weighed in a weighing machine and you pay for the weight. This concept is called comida por quilo. In some bus routes they stop at Churascaria instead.

I reached Belo Horizonte around 5 pm. My friend Leandro already informed me through whataspp where to get down and which bus to take. When I got down near lake they were waiting for me. They were all waiting for me - Leandro, his brother and girlfriend, his mother (housewife) and father (Doctor). They accepted me with open arms. They are such a warm family – immediately you get the vibe. Since the match was going on, so we sat in their drawing room and watched the match in a giant screen. They have a very big house. They have two big dogs which looks like a fox. Since they knew I was scared of dog, I never got to see the dog during the rest of my stay. 

What an understanding family. Leandro is an engineer. His brother Daniel is a journalist and his brother (not present) is also an engineer. I gave them my small gift of Nutangram owl and patachitra to them. They were very happy to get it. We chatted for long hours. Leandro  was a volunteer at the Confederations Cup and gifted me that T- shirt. " Don't wear it now. Tourists will take you to be a volunteer." With my little Spanish and no Portuguese, that would indeed be a calamity! It was in the city of the world famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, famous for its food and hospitality, that I was to watch my first match: Belgium vs Algeria. What Gaudi is to Barcelona, Niemeyer is to Brazil. I had a wonderful dinner with them. Real estate is so costly that unlike elsewhere in the West, children stay on with their parents for long. Belo Horizonte is also famous for food and its hospitality.


Most of the people from Kolkata went to Brazil from round of 16. But according to me real carnival starts at the beginning. Today is my first match in Copa do Mundo (as Brazilians know World cup),  which will start at 1 am. Since Leandro thought I might be late he dropped me to a convenient place from where I can catch a bus. In the bus we met some supporters of Atletico de Minerio , where Ronaldinho also plays. We had great fun talking to them. They told me since their ticket is in student category that is why they paid only 30 R$. or 15$ compared to 90 $ we paid ! We had to walk a lot after getting down at the bus.

I was so overwhelmed with the colourful crowd that I could barely focus on the match (Belgium vs Algeria). It hardly helped that people in front kept walking in and out, for an unending supply of beer. The seats were also folding chairs. The stadium also looks nice. Inside the stadium you can send free post cards to anyone , anywhere in the world free of cost! I sent few cards to my family and my brother in law (which later reached after I returned back home in Kolkata !). The game was slow in the first half, and the substitutions injected a bit of pace, which changed the game after the break and Belgium won 2-1. I saw Hazard playing for Belgium – but he did not do justice to his reputation.
When I came back home it is already dark. There are not too many buses to come back home from the stadium. So it took me lot of time to get the right bus. I had to walk a lot. It is a lovely city, so I did not mind walking ! After returning back home , I watched the match with them. In fact I almost missed the match which is supposed to start at 5 pm. It was Brazil match !


In the breakfast they made some wonderful fruit juice for me. They also made famous pao of Belo Horizonte for me.

   Sucos everywhere

Pão de queijo

 My host Leandro's parents were so thrilled to have me, that  they took me to the market, introducing me to many passers- by as " Indiano". They even took me to an Indian shop – owned by a Bihari. I chatted with his Nepali employee Raj over there (click here for the interview). From there I went to the market where they bought a shoe ! On the way they showed me a bit of the landmarks of the city.
I took their interview about what they think about cricket. Very interesting.
click here for interview
I missed the night bus (because I got confused with the  depot from where to board the bus – even my hosts were bit confused ) but the super friendly conductor made sure that I reach Brasilia by an alternate route at no extra cost – almost without understanding any English !! An eagerness to help seems to run in their blood. Today my destination is Brasilia, their capital. 


When I got down at Brasilia bus depot in the morning I heard Bengali – which is music to my ear. They (Bengali couple) are coming from Rio. They are coming from England (works with TCS). They told how last 6 months they were doing nothing but planning for the world cup – exploring different hotels, venues etc. I knew exactly what they were saying since I also passed through the same phase. He said he was even willing to sell his kidney to come to Brazil.

They are here for only 10 days. Since they are also going to Fortaleza so their costs are much higher than me and they also stayed in more expensive hotels. They were worried how to spend the time before and after the match, since after today’s match they have to go back to Fortaleza by night flight, for their next match. I told them not to worry, since my friend is coming to pick us up. He will take us to a restaurant and after that we will go to the stadium. So they need not worry about how to go to the stadium.

Very soon Douglas arrived ("Bom Dia" - good day ! ) and we went together with his car and got down at a place very near to the stadium. 

We had our brunch there. Douglas speaks very good English.

After that we went to the see the match. The stadium looks really nice from outside. Today’s match is between Colombia vs Ivory coast. I think half of the town is wearing Colombian jersey. Food and drinks are very expensive inside the stadium. Water costs 6R$ (ie Rs 180 almost) and double hotdog 10R$ (ie Rs 300 almost). However there is a place where you can drink water from a tap (similar to the one you see at the airport). People were continuously getting up get a glass of beer , but nobody is throwing the glass in the stadium , rather at the end of the game you will see that people are holding almost 8 to 10 glass in their hand ! Colombia clinched a last 16 place at the World Cup after beating Ivory Coast 2-1 to secure their second win from as many Group C games. James Rodriguez scored one of the goals. 
On the way I saw the famous supporter from Ivory coast who was shown in TV.


After the match is over we met at a pre-determined place. Douglas was nowhere to be found ! They got very tensed, since their bag is inside Douglas’s car ! I said Douglas is a very sensible person – he will come in time. Most importantly you have plenty of time left. Actually he was joined by his girlfriend in the stadium. They were having some snacks beside famous TV tower near the stadium. After some time Douglas arrived. Not only did he take them to the bus stop from where they can get a bus, he also gave them a short city tour ! We are still in touch through facebook.

After the match we went to his house at  Lago Norte, it's close to Shopping Center Iguatemi. From there one can get a bus to go to the city centre. It is not very far from city centre. Douglas works in a government hospital.He is also a part time lecturer. Healthcare is free in Brazil, including medicines. He stays in a studio apartment. I have heard about this type of apartment in India – but never seen it in India. It is a big room where there is a kitchen cum dining cum bed room. But it is comfortable. I slept on the mattress. He stays alone. His parents are from Goiania. He supports a team from Goiania. He shown me the jersey of that club. 

Douglas seemed to be a very intelligent and knowledgeable person. He was a gifted student too.


Today is Friday. So Douglas has to go to the office. We had our breakfast in his house. All the bulbs in the staircase has a sensor. The light is on automatically when it detects movement and automatically it is off when there is no movement. He took out his car from the garage. Like most of the places in Brazil, the garage gate is opened with remote control. There is nobody there to open the door. He dropped me at a convenient place. From there I took a bus go to the Rodoviaria (bus depot) at the city centre. After getting down I started walking towards “Three Powers Plaza” which is at the end of  centre. The Brasilia is famous for the architecture of  Oscar Niemayer.

The Federal Republic of Brazil is a union of 27 Federal Units (Portuguese: Unidades Federativas ): 26 states (estados) and 1 federal district (distrito federal), where the federal capital, Brasília, is located. The states are generally based on historical, conventional borders which have developed over time. The Federal District is not a state. The Federal District is bordered by the states of Goiás and Minas Gerais.

First I went to see National Theater Claudio Santoro. Brasilia's main theatre features 3 main halls for plays and concerts, art galleries and temporary art exhibitions. Unfortunately it was closed. There I met a spirited Colombian who has also come to Brasilia with his son and daughter in law for the world cup.

Then I went to see História da Biblioteca Nacional de Brasília which is the National Library of Brasilia designed by  Oscar Niemeyer in 1960. Then I saw the art gallery just beside which looks an igloo.


Next I went to see the famous cathedral just nearby. Catedral Metropolitana. It is another major attraction of the city of Brasilia. This building is featured with rich architecture. It has a glass roof facing the sky so it gives an effect as it is touching the sky. This attraction has religious importance as well as its 16 columns are believed to be the crown thorns of Lord Jesus. Inside this cathedral, you will also find four sculptures made of bronze and have a height of 3 meters. Sculptures of 3 angels are also there in cathedral and they are suspended with steel cables so it seems as if they are floating. It is unique since it does not look like a typical church.
(click here for the video) 

I have never seen a church like this in my life and many souvenirs being sold here is a miniature model of this church. It is almost like Victoria Memorial of Kolkata because of its unique style.

The last one I saw is Three Powers Square – which is a landmark of Brasilia. Tourists know it as Three Powers Square but among locals it is known as Praca dos Tres Poderes.  The name is derived from the presence of the three governmental powers around the plaza: the Executive, represented by the Palácio do Planalto (presidential office); the Legislative represented by the Congresso Nacional (National Congress); and the Judiciary, represented by the Supremo Tribunal Federal (Supreme Federal Court). The bronze statue of two abstract figures is named Os Candangos and represents the pioneering spirit of the workers who built the city. This is the most famous landmark here :  "The Warriors" (or "The Candangos") by Bruno Giorgi. The souvenirs shop is selling this. See wikipedia. Like elsewhere the Supreme court also looks elegant.
The next one is The Itamaraty Palace (Portuguese: Palácio do Itamaraty). It is the headquarters of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil. 

The building was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and inaugurated on April 21, 1970. It is located to the east of the National Congress building along the Ministries Esplanade, near the Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Plaza).

On the way back I saw  the National Congress (Congresso Nacional) – which is also quite amazing.
Then after walking back near TV Tower, I waited for Douglas to come. He picked me up with his car and we went to see Palácio da Alvorada (Palace of Dawn) - The President's official residence, by the Paranoá lake. It is not open to visitors. Its arches are icons of the capital.After spending some time there we crossed the lake by his car to go to the lake area - Paranoá Lake. The place reminded me of our Dhakuria lake in KolkataFor Location click here 


We sat beside the lake and chatted for quite some time. I saw people taking pictures in wedding gown and also a pregnant lady taking pictures of her belly. This is something which I have never seen in my life ! Later my sister told me it is not very uncommon in West.

Paranoá Lake provides gorgeous views of the city from across the Lake, an excellent place to watch Brasilia's famous sunset.  It is indeed a wonderful place to spend some quite time. 

I asked many questions to Douglas . The roads were velvety. There were no powercuts. " So what the heck are you all protesting against?" I asked, bewildered.

" Corruption," he replied.  He said while Brasila’s stadium is supposed to cost only 300 million dollar , but ultimately it rose to 1200 million. Where has the money gone ?

He also told  me the Govt hospital in Brazil is air conditioned and medicines are free. He also told me that one of his friends from Croatia said that yellow fever is very expensive in Croatia , so how much does it cost in Brazil ? He said it is free . Then his Croatian friend said fine, but what is the rate for a foreigner, he replied it is free ! Even medicines are free when you are hospitalized. He told me labour rights are very strong in Brazil. Here the minimum wage is 850 R$. Moreover they work for 11 months and get 1 months holiday and are paid 13 months salary. Typically security guards in apartments are the lowest paid of all.

After sunset we went back home (on the way I saw the whole city lit in Brazilian flag’s colour) and later left for his girlfriend’s house. In the complex where she stays there are some places where people were playing futsal. Since we are in a hurry so we did not have time to watch it. Then we three went to attend a fair. It is a church- organised fair where I had churrasco , their famous grilled meat, apart from other things. He bought many food from various stalls. I tried something which is akin to our Payash.Over there one person is singing and there are numerous food stalls all around the place. It is a family get together – like what is known as “Anandamela” in Delhi. It is a great place to observe people. The Douglas dropped his girlfriend at her house and we left for our home. 

Her girlfriend is studying and appearing for a competitive exam. After returning his home I watched some hight
In Brazil there is subtitle for hearing for hearing impaired during the match (click here for the video)


The next day we got up early in the morning and left for his church – Seventh day Adventist Church. Seventh day Adventist follow Saturday as his holiday. He was bit late because of me ! I was bit ashamed for that even today ! Douglas plays the violin at the local church(click here for the video) The people in the church are very nice. 


There the people from the church instructed one girl to make me understand the church proceedings. She explained me things with a wonderful book. The girl’s uncle looks just like an Indian.


After that we went for a buffet lunch. Douglas is a vegetarian. Here you weigh your food on a scale and then pay according to the weight of the food. It was priced at around R$ 4.4 per 100 grams, This is called “comida por quilo” or por Kilo (food per kilogram) indicating that food is sold by the kilo regardless of its kind. It causes curiosity in many first time visitors - who are used to eating by the menu rather than by weight.

Inside the restaurant I saw the pictures of Swami Yognanda Paramhansa !!

Then Douglas left me at the bus stop and went to the TV tower to go to other places which I have not seen yesterday.I let go my match  ticket (by re-selling it in Fifa site - the process) in Porto Alegre for want of time and money.The match at Porto Alegre between Korea vs Algeria was on 22.6 and match between Brazil on Cameroon (I got this ticket much later from Pannada) was on 23.6 at Brasilia. And plane ticket for coming back to Brasilia on 22.6 evening or 23.6 morning from Porto Alegre shoot up like anything. Porto Alegre is the home to my favourite player Ronaldinho.My friend Juliano Fagundes promised me to take me to the house of Ronaldinho. I went to the bus station to buy ticket to go to Belo Horizonte for England vs Cost Rica Match, which I got with the help from Pannanda from IFA. At the bus station while buying the bus ticket the date of the ticket was wrongly issued even though I repeated the date number of times and repeated the date in Portuguese. I asked hundreds of questions across the window of the counter to get the best deal. But even after that I got a wrong date. When I told him about wrong date – he was not at all annoyed and gave me a new ticket without any charges. He was smiling through out the time. I told him I want to take his picture which he willingly did. By this time queue got longer but no one complained – what an amazing country!

Otherwise buying a ticket is super easy for a Bengali - all you have to say is um (one) bilhete (ticket) janela (window)!! After getting the ticket one should say Obrigado !

Then I went to the TV Tower or Torre de Televisão area. It is in the middle of the Monumental axis. One can go to the top of TV tower to get a panoramic view of the city. There was a long queue to go to the top. I had some sweet pop corn. What is interesting is all the food vendors were wearing the jersey of their favourite club – something which we never see in India. 

We took the elevator to go to the top. It took lot of time to go to the top. The view from the top is stunning. The Brasília TV Tower was completed in 1967  at a height of 218 meters, but in 1987 another 6 meter was added by the TV channel Bandeirantes. Now the TV Tower is 224 m height. This tower is the third tallest structure of Brazil. At the top I saw a girl with ohm symbol at her back on her T shirt.When I got down from the TV Tower it is already dark.

The main activity revolves around the base of TV Tower. There are some hawkers corner cum souvenir shop just beside the Tower. They sale Brasilia’s traditional handicrafts.
Brasilia City Tour offers a two-hour bus tour of the city. Ticket offices are located at the base of the TV Tower and in front of Brasilia Shopping complex.

At the food court beside shopping complex they sale food from all over Brazil. One of the most famous food in Brazil is from Bahia ( North East of Brazil ). There are many stalls by Bahian people. Bahia is the place where Rivaldo my favourite player was born. Bahian cuisine contains contributions from the Portuguese colonists and the native Amerindians, but the most important influence on Bahian cuisine came from the enslaved Africans, who not only brought their own style of cooking with them, but also modified Portuguese dishes with African herbs and spices. Bahian cuisine is characterized by the generous use of malagueta chili peppers and dendê oil extracted from an African palm that grows well in the north-eastern climate. Several Bahian dishes also contain seafood (usually shrimp), coconut milk, banana, and okra (ladies’ fingers). 

Douglas advised me to have vatapá – a spicy shrimp purée made with palm oil and nuts – and carurú de camarão, which contains both fresh and dried shrimp, as well as sliced okra. I also had their signature dish Acarajé made from shelled beans (similar to black-eyed peas), which are mashed together with ground shrimp and other ingredients and formed into a ball, then deep-fried in dendê oil. It is served split in half and then stuffed with vatapá or caruru, shrimps, and salad, and hot chilli pepper if you wish. I found it quite interesting and nice – somewhat like South Indian Vada ! Thought it started as snacks I ended up having my dinner there. Then I left for home.


Today is Sunday after having breakfast with Douglas he dropped to to Rodlpho’s house (my next host). I thanked Douglas for whatever he has done for me. The way they helped me at the time of booking the tickets is amazing. 

Rodolpho stays near Guará sub way Station . Since he gave his address with GPS location it was very easy for Douglas to locate it. But today was a bad day for me to go there - Since I reached the day when Rodolpho's girlfriend was leaving town. I felt uneasy about being a " kebab mein haddi" but soon realised that they have no qualms about public display of affection. I gave them Nutan Gram Pencha(Owl), Shantiniketani bag and Patachitra which they liked very much. His girlfriend stays in Rio de Janeiro. They were sitting in front of the computer opening FIFA site - so that they can book a match ticket. I took her number since she can be of some help to me when I reach Rio after few days. They are really nice couple - very sober. They speak good English too. We had lunch together. Rodolpho then took his car to drop her at the airport. In the meantime I used his computer to take a back up of all my photos. It takes lot of time to back up so many pictures. 

When Rodolpho returned I have just finished my back up. After he came back, he took me to a place for dinner which was closed. So we settled for a street food dinner. We had hamburger. Since it was late we did not have too many options. But I was really surprised by the hygiene maintained by a street side food stall. They were wearing apron, using gloves, wearing mouth mask!


TODAY IS THE D-day, the Brazil - Cameroon match and Rodolpho chose his jersey from an array in his wardrobe. On match day, everyone, with or without a ticket, is in a Selecao shirt. 

So I sat in a sea of yellow at the Arena Mane Garrincha. Since we left little early and today night I will catch the bus to Belo Horizonte I decided to take the suitcase and keep it in the left luggage section of the rodoviaria or bus station for a fee.
Otherwise Rodolpho will have to come back home rushing, only for me. Going to Belo Horizonte for England vs Costa Rica was not part of my intial plan – I got the ticket much later courtesy Pannada as mentioned earlier. After the match I will come back to Brasilia again.
While going there at the metro station I met “superman” the Brazilian supporter ! He took me in his arms !

                                       click here for the video - my favourite
                                       click here for the song

Since we left early I had plenty of time with me. So I decided to wander around the stadium. I got my face painted at no cost, again courtesy my " Indiano" tee. This time it was done by preachers of Christianity – some evangelist. They even gave me a memory card.  

I decided to have some “Pastel” at the Rodoviaria, since I don’t know when I will be having my lunch.
Since I have lot of time left in my hand so decided to go for some walking tour. I saw JK Memorial on the way. The Juscelino Kubitschek  is a museum dedicated to the life and accomplishments of the president, and houses his remains as well. It's located underground. However when I went there it was closed. Needless to say it was also made by Niemeyar.

Then I went to a museum called Brasilia Memorial Museum on the Indian People.It is free to get into the Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People. You'll find it right across the street from the Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial.

The Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People (or Memorial dos PovosIndigenas, in Portuguese)  is not given the importance it deserves. The Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People is a collection of native art and culture from indigenous people all over Brazil. In addition to art made especially for the collection, you will find daily living items like feather headdresses, pottery, baskets, hammocks, nets, spears and paddles. It is one of the best collections of native artefacts in the world and possibly the best in South America. Even though it is one of the greatest cultural sights to see in Brasilia, the Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People rarely gets as many reviews as the other major sights in the city. But, by all means it should. The museum was one of many famous buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

The Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People is of great interest to any traveller who wants to know about the native people who lived in Brazil before the Europeans came. These traditions are still alive today, and the Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People often has presentations and visitors to educate the public about native ways of living.

The museum was originally built in the 1960's to show native art. After Niemeyer designed the building, the powers that be in Brasilia decided instead to turn it into an art museum to show European-Brazilian art. People were outraged, but the plans went ahead. When the art museum failed, it was returned to a museum for native people. In addition to the exhibitions, the Brasilia Memorial Museum of the Indian People also has a cafe and a gift shop, where you can buy handmade native crafts.

I was awestruck by how similar they are to the mattress and cane baskets I have seen in Sabong Midnapore. I was extremely happy to be in this museum – Indian among the Indians.

Today being the match day I was the only visitor. With the match time nearing I had to leave for the stadium. I wish I have known this place earlier. Now it is time to proceed towards the stadium.
While going to the stadium I met a Brazilian who told me that what you have written in your T Shirt carries meaning but is not grammatically correct. He looks like Romario. 

Inside the stadium I saw the person looking into the security system did not allow people to go inside with a whistle. Since I went little early I was able to see the Brazilians footballers practice in the ground .Neymar looked so frail up close that I wondered how he survived the giant defenders. He wouldn't for long, as it later turned out. But common story in India that we are not good in football , because we do not have good physique is bunkum.

It was a great match and Brazil defeated Cameroon 4-1. Inside the stadium I met Pankaj Ghosh and other persons from Kolkata. I have talked to him before coming to Brazil. 

They have left the stadium 20 minutes before the match – when the score is 3-1 : since they have to go to Belo Horizonte to see next day’s match ! The fact is there was enough time to go to airport and the stadium is not very far from airport ! I I considered myself lucky to be inside the stadium. After the match I quickly went to the bus station or Rodoviaria, since I had a ticket to the England- Costa Rica match the next day in Belo Horizonte. It is an overnight journey. I was bit confused (and I was late as usual) which bus to take – so I asked a conductor cum driver , which one is my bus. There was already a big queue in front of him, to get inside his bus – he was checking the tickets and letting people one by one. I thought he would ignore/snub  me since I was looking for some other bus – to my surprise, not only did he help me to get the right, bus ignoring the queue in front of him, he did it with a smile.


After getting down at bus station at Belo Horizonte , first thing I did was to buy the ticket to go to Ouro Preto. At the bus station I met an Indian guy (working in IT) from Bihar but working in Bangalore. However it was evident he did not do any homework and did not learn a single Portuguese in these days and was complaining about their lack of English knowledge. But he seems to be a nice guy. We had our brunch together. Then we took a bus to go to the stadium. In the bus we met a mother-son-daughter of Atletico Minerio fan who are also going to see the match.

They once lost 5-1 to Cruzeiro– which is equivalent to Mohun Bagan’s loss to East Bengal in 1975 ! So if you talk about that match, they will be ashamed  to be reminded of that!  Ronaldinho plays for this club. So I saw many T Shirts with the name  Ronaldinho written on it. We walked upto the stadium along with them chatting. Before reaching the stadium we saw the famous Costa Rican model cum journalist Jale Berahimi.

England was already out of the tournament but that hardly stopped the supporters from singing along. The full team was not fielded initially. I had to wait for a long time to see Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard in action. The match ended in goal less draw. It was indeed a boring match.

After the match, I had to rush to the bus Depot to go to Ouro Preto -a picture postcard town,  home to Brazil's 18th century gold rush. Ouro Preto is in the state of Minas Gerais, is one of Brazil's best-preserved colonial towns and a UNESCO world heritage site. Among other historical and colonial cities of Minas Gerais (Tiradentes, São João del Rei, Mariana and Diamantina), Ouro Preto is one of the most popular travelling destinations in Brazil. After some brain storming I had to settle for Ouro Preto, for lack of time – actually I planned to see other ones too. However of all the exquisite colonial towns scattered around Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto is the jewel in the crown. Ouro Preto is about 100 kilometres from Belo Horizonte.

Read more at and also this one to know more

In the bus I met a student whose college is in Ouro Preto. It is a centre for education. Like Indian parents his parents came to see him off !

When I reached there it is already dark. My hostel is not very far from the bus stop. So walked all the way to the hostel. After roaming around the city I went for dinner, since my hostel does not serve dinner. After having my dinner I randomly moved around the city - since it was dark, I could not make out much - but it was evident that it is a very special place. In one of the narrow streets I saw musical soiree (just like Jalsha here) in a make shift stage. People are dancing and couples are hugging each other while dancing without being bothered about the passerby.(CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO) After spending some time it is time to return to the guest house. (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO)

In the hostel, I met an Indonesian boy – William Jap - who showed me his pictures with Beckham, Messi, Ronaldo and other football Gods. I lost no time in sending him a Facebook invite. We are still in touch. He has just come and said “lets go out for some fun”. It is already 11 pm. So I opted out. Later I learnt he came back at 3 am. In the guest I took the help of hostel manager to download my pictures using hotel computer. He told me there is a game played in Brazil which is similar to cricket. He also showed the game to me in youtube ! See what he thinks of cricket click here for the video

After taking back up of my pictures I went to sleep. I paid around Rs 1500 for the night stay.


In the morning I had a sumptuous breakfast in the hostel and left for the walking tour. The town's small size and steep hills make it worthwhile to see the town walking -though there are some buses plying in the town. I had the map of course. Navigating the cobblestone roads/slopes on foot can be exhausting, but the views of 23 churches spread out across are spectacular. The city is a showcase of outstanding mineiro art and Baroque architecture. Its  23 churches are special not only for their architecture but also for the finest carved sculptures by Aleijadinho, one of Brazil's most celebrated artists.CLICK HERE for the video.

Read more by clicking here.

I stated the tour from Praça Tiradentes - the definitive centre of the town. On the north side of the square is the Escolas de Minas (School of Mines), with a museum of mineralogy. On the south side is the Museu da Inconfidência. Then I started walking randomly. I passed by a small departmental store where they are selling potato /cabbage / brinjal for Rs 55 per Kg. Then I went to the famous mine - Mina Chico Rei It is one of the largest and most-visited gold mines in the area, this mine was named for the legendary Chico Rei . You can go inside without guide too.

Chico Rei, or "King Chico was an African king captured and forced into slavery. He was brought to Ouro Preto and forced to work in a gold mine which now bears his name. The story goes that he secretly stashed small pieces of gold in his hair and eventually saved up enough to buy not only his freedom but also the mine itself. He then used the profits from the mine to purchase the freedom of all the slaves working the mine. He is also supposed to have used the mine's gold to both fund and decorate the Igreja Santa Efigênia, the church (Igreja) which became the most important for slaves and their descendants.
The doors and windows in Ouro Predo are unique. I took a series of pictures of them. Then I stared walking along Rua Padre de Faria and reached Capela do Padre Faria  . Just in front of the temple is an old man is selling some sculptures. I did not buy anything since prices are on the higher side. After some time I started walking and reached Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição - one of the best churches here. I find the clay model of human bust hanging from the window very interesting and actually some of them look absolutely real. Now (4 pm) it is time to go to the bus station to buy the tickets for going back to Belo Horizonte. Since I did not get time I had to skip lunch.

Ouro Preto, meaning "black gold", was founded in 1698 and quickly became the epicentre of a new gold rush, as the central place where gold was brought to be measured and sold. In 1720 the state capital transferred here from nearby Mariana and by 1750 Ouro Preto's population had swelled to over 110,000, making it one of the largest cities in the Americas; at the time it had twice as many inhabitants as New York City and 5 times more than Rio de Janeiro. The city's success inspired the naming of many other cities and neighbourhoods, including the founding of the American city of Brazil, Indiana.
As a result of the gold trade, the town, then known as Vila Rica, took a significant place in Brazilian history, being the site of the Inconfidência Mineira, the first attempted uprising in the cause of independence from Portuguese colonial rule. So Brazil’s first independence movement started here.

Read here: to know more

The revolt was led by Brazilian cultural hero Tiradentes in 1789 after he realized how much of the region's gold was going straight onto boats bound for Portugal.
The revolt failed however and after Tiradentes was tried and executed, he was dismembered and various body parts were displayed along the road between Ouro Preto and Rio de Janeiro to discourage his followers. His head was placed in what is now known as PraçaTiradentes, at the very centre of town.
In 1822, Brazil finally gained its independence, and the following year Ouro Preto was given the title of "Imperial City" by Brazil's first emperor, Dom Pedro I. In 1839, South America's first pharmacy school was established here, and in 1876, Dom Pedro II founded the School of Minas, which was originally focused on mining and metallurgy but which has now become one of the country's premier engineering schools.
By the end of the 19th century, the gold had run out, growth had slowed to a halt. The population plummeted when the capital was moved to the newly founded Belo Horizonte in 1897. Lack of new construction provided for the preservation of the colonial architecture and Ouro Preto was forgotten in time until Dictator Getúlio Vargas began having some sites restored in the 1950s.

Ouro Preto was the first Brazilian location to be declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980. Since then it has gradually become more of a tourist destination as one of the best-preserved colonial cities in Brazil. After reaching Belo Horizonte , I took the  night bus for going to Brasilia.


At morning , when I reached Rodolpho's house, there were five others sleeping over. A Brazilian girl got so excited on learning I was from India that she sang me the opening bars of Daler Mehendi's Tunak tunak tun and danced a Bollywood jig. She is Andrea Fortaleza. 

Even today we are in touch. I also met Alberto Junior - a journalist. The other guy sleeping on the floor is a Kenyan (who has come for the world cup). When I wanted to go to the bathroom - I was not allowed to go to the bathroom - since it is attached to Rodolpho’s room and that room was locked from inside. One guy and girl were sleeping in Rodolpho’s room ! Later I know they all met only yesterday at a night club !!
The main reason why they stayed back is, in Brazil if you are drunk and caught with drunken driving the fine is 3000 Real (almost Rs 87,000 !). Of course famous Bengali journalist wrote in Ananda Bazar that in Belo Horizonte - most of the people consume alcohol (and drive at night) - nothing can be further than truth.

Then Rodolpho made some breakfast for us. We lent a helping hand to him. After some time the “couple” came out of the room and we all left the house after breakfast. Rodolpho dropped me near the metro station. From there I left for main Rodovaria - from where the stadium is not far. I reached the stadium far ahead of time. Today the match is between Portugal- Ghana . I had some snacks before entering the ground.

For the Portugal- Ghana match , my seat was behind the goal and both goals happened at my end. I saw Ronaldo from a very short distance. Looking it at him, I understood that you don’t need not be a muscle-man to be a good player - unlike what footballers in India claim.

Inside the stadium the food is very expensive. For 500 ml sprite you have to pay Rs 170 (8 Real) almost. A glass of bear costs 10 Real ! An official T shirt costs between Rs 1700 to Rs 4000 inside the stadium. Luckily there is some free water!
Portugal won the match 2-1.

Another thing which I liked in the stadium is, I saw many people coming to see the match in wheelchair. So there is all the arrangement for them. Moreover you will not find any spectator not wearing a jersey – either his own club’s jersey or national jersey. After the match was over again I went to the TV Tower. The real action after the match is shifted there. There is real carnival atmosphere here.
click here for the video
At the stalls near the TV Tower people are beating the drums and are dancing to the tune. I saw a person who seems to be very poor, but highly spirited, dancing to the Samba beat. Interestingly he is dancing with a skimpily dressed girl and they are really enjoying it, unlike what you see in India.India is too class conscious country. Brazil is truly a class less society and a rainbow nation.
                               CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO

Roger Cohen summed up the character of Brazilians in few lines - Most Brazilians, in my experience have a natural optimism, goodness and humility — the latter captured in the extraordinary and widespread expressiondesculpa qualquer coisa,” or please excuse anything that may somehow, for some reason, due to some mischance, not have been pleasing. 

They are deeply linked to their land. In no other country do gentleness and violence reside in such proximity to each other. It is important to win. But that is not quite everything. Brazil, five times World Cup champions, has (nearly) always played beautiful soccer — creative, liquid, improvised, unpredictable and at times outrageous. It’s a land of magic and love. 
There’s a “jeitinho” for your every need, from getting hold of a ticket to the semifinal to getting out of a speeding fine. A “jeitinho” is the means to bend the rules, display ingenuity and conjure solutions from impossible situations. It is a core part of the nation’s “jogo de cintura,” literally its ability to adjust its belt, more loosely its endless flexibility. The poor North American “gringo,” by contrast, is literal-minded and rules-bound. Loosen up or lose. Everything is late, and even later in Bahia. So is everyone. For a dinner, usually 90 minutes late, and don’t expect anyone before the “telenovela” (TV soap opera) is over. “Atrasado” — delayed — is a state of mind. (Everywhere I saw people watching soap opera – in one of them- The Big Bang theory, there is an Indian character – almost everybody talked about that character to me!)
The nation tends to “empurrar com a barriga,” literally push with the .. put things off through artful procrastination. The only place you find twinkling speed is on the soccer field, where Brazilians have “samba no pé,” or roughly magic in their feet.
In Brazil it is always  “Tudobem,” everything’s fine, there’s sun, there’s “chopp” (ice-cold draught beer) and miles of “praia” (beach). “Bola prafrente!” — keep your head up and keep the spirit. There is always the “jogo bonito” — the beautiful game.
It is always thumbs up. This video demonstrates the admiration for India, with his big smile - on hearing that I am from India. Actually it poorly captures the admiration I have faced everywhere. CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO and also this one also click here for ANOTHER VIDEO.
Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool football club, once remarked that, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Shankly, for Brazilians, was guilty of a gross understatement.
I met a Tamilian – who has come from Tamil TV channel to cover the match. They took my interview. I clicked many pictures there - people were really enjoying the beat of the drums and many of them are dancing. I took pictures with Ronaldo look alike, with a person dressed  as a donkey, a person dressed as a as Spiderman. so it's really an amazing carnival atmosphere – difficult to describe in words. Almost everybody is dancing. It is spontaneous – unlike the “put on” thing which I see in India. There are people from different nationalities in that place, even I saw an South African lady dancing to the tunes of Samba. I even took some videos of the performance.

After that I had some snacks because I was very hungry. The stalls in that place has food court , food various parts of Brazil – as mentioned earlier; food of Bahia Salvador  is very famous in Brazil. So I had some food from the stall of Bahia Salvador and the people from Salvador, especially women are easily recognisable because they wear a head scarf .  

When you are in Salvador (or anywhere in Bahia) don't forget to taste some typical dishes.
Acarajé - dish, made with beans, seasoned with salt and onion, fried in dendê (palm) oil and served with pepper sauce, dried shrimps, vatapa, tomato and green pepper
Rice and farofa.
Vatapa is one of the most traditional dishes of Bahia made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, dendê (palm) oil and nuts (peanuts and/or cashews). It's somewhere between a sauce and a paste and it's used to accompany dishes such as acaraje.
Caruru - dish, made with okra, fish, shrimps, peanuts, cashew nuts and seasoned with oil and peppers
Salvador da Bahia is one of the oldest cities in Brazil and the most populated in the northeast of the country. Bahia, as many call it, has earned the title of "City of Joy" for its popular festivities and its carnival, the largest party in the world. It is the seat of African culture in Brazil. I could not go there due to lack of time and expense involved. In Brazil unlike what people in India think ,only 7.5% is black, 47.5% white and remaining mulatto is around 43%.
I had vatapa and Caruru. After the carnival I went back to Rodolpho’s  house and he was already there . My flight today is at 10 30 pm.  so I had to pack my bag. I was bit late - so I did everything very fast - later I found the tires left my flip flop in his house  !

since I was bit late today, Rodholpho  was kind enough to drop me at the airport and also helped me to check in. To ensure that I am not late, he took me to the right counter so that I can expedite the whole thing.

I am really grateful for whatever he has done for me. Mr Samir Bandopadhyay was supposed to join me from Rio but to see this match, but he never turned up because he cannot come to this place on his own ! so I had to cancel the match ticket, but this plane ticket could not be cancelled automatically. My flight duration (TAM Airlines) is 1 hours 40 minutes and it  will reach Sao Paolo at 1210 am.


When I reached Sao Paulo Guralhos International Airport it is 12.30 am, actually it already 27.6., I heard that there is no bus at that time - so I have to wait till morning .
I heard there is a bus service from Tiete, which leaves for Rio de Janeiro at 3.00 am , late night. but how can I go there ? It is quite far. There is no bus to go there at around 1.30 am . And Taxi is very expensive.

But in the meantime, I made some friends who are coming from Costa Rica and they are also going to Rio de Janeiro. So we hired a taxi and we reached the bus station at Tiete, from where I can take the bus to go to Rio de Janeiro, instead of waiting at Sao Paulo Airport till morning. It takes around 6 - 7 hours to reach Rio de Janeiro. In the early morning, bus travels fast , so we were told that it will reach in 6 hours . I got the bus ticket which goes to Rio. I chatted with my new friend , Fred, almost whole night and he speaks very good English. Interestingly he works in IBM and interact with Indian people. He says Indian people are really smart. I reached Rio early in the morning around 9.30 am and Suhaila was supposed to come to the bus station. She said “that part of the town is dangerous, stand in the station where there are people "

But the traffic is bad and traffic has been made one way in various places. So she said  that she will not come to the bus station so early in the morning,  instead she told me to go to Larga de Machado by taking bus 133 (the local bus station is just opposite to the Intercity bus terminal) - where we can meet. Larga Do Machado is an important metro station too.
Inside the bus I saw a lady standing and the Brazilian flag was drawn on her nail ! I suddenly saw Christ the Redeemer from the bus from a very far distance and I became ecstatic. my dream has come true -  at last I am in Cidade Maravilhosa -  the most beautiful city in the world. I cannot believe it. I had to pinch myself hard to believe I am in my dream country and that too in the dream City. The bus fare is flat 3 Real like the metro fare - irrespective of the distance i.e. Rs 87 approx.

Suhaila or Su as I call her, is there waiting for me. She took me to nearby places - so basically we had a short walking tour.  Suhaila is half Iranian half Belgian -  her mother is Belgian her father is Iranian. The first 14 years of her life she was wearing a burqa or Hijab - then she settled in Belgium. When she was planning for higher studies, she had various options - one of them being India , another option was Brazil - ultimately she settled for Brazil.

When she was planning where to study in Brazil, she met some online friends who guided her where she will study and she finally left for Brazil to study. In Brazil she met her future husband Dr Caesar whom she actually met in the online forum while she was searching for her college in Brazil (and guided her) ; so now she's settled in Brazil . She is very modern and an atheist - which is very interesting since she is coming from Iran. That instantly made me closer to her.She knows a lot about India ; she knows Farsi - so there are many words in Indian legal system which we use - she knows . They are a very nice couple - they don't have any kids but they have some cats in their house; there house is very near to Rio centre - the place where the Rio Olympics will be held. In fact I can see the Olympics Arena from their house itself and they invited me for the Rio Olympics  and stay at their house. It is just walking distance from their house . From Downtown of Rio it takes more than an hour.
Then we went to the famous Lapa region. Lapa is famous for Selaron Steps / decorative tiles embossed on the stair case.(CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO)  Escadaria Selarón, also known as the 'Selaron Steps', is a set of world-famous steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as "my tribute to the Brazilian people". Jorge Selarón was born in Chile in 1947. He travelled, lived and worked as a painter and sculptor in over 50 countries around the world before arriving and deciding to settle in Rio de Janeiro in 1983.
In 1990, Selarón began renovating dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag.

It started out as a side-project to his main passion, painting, but soon became an obsession. He found he was constantly out of money, so Selarón sold paintings to fund his work.
It was long and exhaustive work but he continued on and eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors. There are 250 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2,000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. People from all over the world collected ceramic tiles and gave it to him so that he can put it on the stair case. It is considered an iconic tourist attraction of Rio de Janeiro with travellers from across the globe visiting it every day.

Selarón was found dead January 10, 2013, on the famous Lapa steps. His body was found with burn marks. There is a rumour he was murdered. 

I saw some Hindu God and Goddess - Lakshmi, Shiva, Vishnu ceramic tiles which are being put on the staircase which I found very interesting .

I didn't know that at that point of time Lapa is the place for partying , this is the place for the hippies , artists , bohemians and after sundown, the whole place is turned into a party zone till late at  night . This place is cheaper than other places. So I started looking for hostel for Pannada just beside Lapa. So I talked to some hostels and finally zeroed in one hostel so that Pannada after reaching Rio, can go straightaway go to this place.  In the Lapa even during afternoon it is slowing becoming party zone with people strumming guitar, bongo. All over Lapa and Rio I saw graffiti.
Then we went to see the famous Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Sebastian or Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro walking. It is really colourful does not look like a typical church. It is similar to the style of Brasilia by Oscar Niemayar. It is distinctive, modern Catholic cathedral resembling a pyramid.

Then  we went to see the famous Theatro Municipal or Municipal Theatre, in the city centre of Rio de Janeiro with her. We met a Bangladeshi couple there on a honeymoon in Brazil.
Built in the beginning of the 20th century, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful and important theatres in the country. The building is designed in an eclectic style, inspired by the Paris Opéra of Charles Garnier. The new theatre is located, with the intersection of Avenida Rio Branco, and is modelled on the Parisian avenues style.
It is designed by the architects Francisco de Oliveira Passos, a Brazilian and the French Albert Guilbert, the building has a room with a capacity of 2360 seats (32 m high). The staircase at the entrance is decorated with chandeliers and statues. It is located near the National Library and the National Fine Arts Museum, overlooking the spacious Cinelândia Square.
The outside walls are inscribed with the names of classic Eurocentric & Brazilian artists. Today, the Theatro Municipal mostly shows productions of ballet and classical music. I saw some Indian classical dance programme advertisement to be held here in near future !
Then we went to  Convento de Santo Antônio or Convent of St. Anthony (Rio de Janeiro). It is situated in the centre of the city of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. It is one of the oldest and most important sets of colonial remnants of the city. The history of the Convent of St. Anthony begins in 1592. The church and the convent of St. Anthony in Carioca Square, Rio de Janeiro, were founded by the Franciscan Friar Vicente do Salvador on the 4th of June 1608. Friar Salvador, now known as the father of Brazilian historiography, wrote the first History of Brazil. You can mistakenly think this is a old building and go to the church you have to take a lift !

Now it is time for returning home. On the way we picked up her husband from the hospital. On learning that I did not eat “proper” Brazilian food , he took me to “Baby Beef”  click here to know more, a place , famous for Beef. It is quite expensive - around 70 Real ! This is a rodízio  (all-you-can-eat service). These are available in numerous types, although the most well-known are the churrascaria, all-you-can-eat grilled meats i.e. they kebab house ! The defining element of rodízio is that unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet, the servers continuously bring skewers of meats. It is an amazing restaurant. This type of restaurant is completely new to me - though somewhat similar to Flame & Grill in Kolkata.

On the table they have kept a picture of a cow - with name of different part of cow printed on it. 
The server, before serving it, will tell you it belong to which part of cow. There are other foods also - kept on the table - innumerable types of cheese. Actually I made a bit of mess of the whole thing. The beef is bit rubbery and was difficult for me to chew and it was even difficult for me to cut with my knife and fork. I made a mess of the whole thing - sometimes using my hand ! They were really gracious to help me !
After almost three matches every day , today there was no match , since group level matches ended on 26.6.14.

28.06.2015. (Saturday)

Today there is a big match. Round of 16 starts today with first match between Brazil vs Chile at Belo Horizonte. It starts at 1300 hrs. We decided to see the match at the community centre of housing complex where Suhaila stays. People gathered there with Brazilian jersey and flag. Almost everybody was wearing a jersey even in a housing complex- unlike what we see in India. The match ended in 1-1 draw and ultimately Brazil won in tie breaker.

After the match is over I decided to go to Copacabana beach to see the next match between Uruguay vs Colombia. FIFA has put up a giant screen at the Copacabana beach, beside Copacabana palace and FIFA has named it as FIFA fan fest. You can see the match on giant screen sitting or standing on the beach along with thousands of fans and have a stadium like feeling and it will appear to you as if you are inside the stadium. It has even a Stadium like atmosphere. 

There is a security check while entering   the arena. You can buy drinks. FIFA has done this for the benefit of the supporters who cannot see the match live inside the stadium. Since I don’t have any more ticket left with me, so I decided to see the matches in the giant screen. You cannot expect a better location than this. I have never seen a match like this - it was indeed a memorable experience for me. Since Colombia won the match, Colombian supporters were ecstatic. (click here for the video) In any case Colombia played  wonderful football throughout this world cup. Many people has come from Columbia, since they share border with Brazil. So all over Rio one can find people with Colombian jersey. I made some Colombian friends too. They were all singing the same song click here for the video

They were the only person who can tell me what is cricket.

Pannada and Co reached Rio yesterday and went on to stay at the dormitory of hostel in Lapa, where I informed them. The hostel was at the heart of Lapa , he saw people kissing, hugging in open and to him it appeared to be a Brazilian brothel, so today they checked out of the hostel along with his wife and other two people and went to the first Hotel they saw and for one day they paid Rs 30,000. Since they were running out of money - they sent an SOS and requested me to arrange another cheaper hotel for them.


Today , I learnt that there is an exhibition of  the paintings of Salvador Dali in Rio; so I asked Su where is the exhibition centre. She volunteered to come with me to the exhibition centre. Then I said I hope you are not going to the exhibition just to give me company against your wish - since I'm new to the city. Then she said do you know what is the name of my cat ?  the name of a cat is Dali , named after Salvador Dali !! Name of the other cat is Mozart !

 Dr Caesar with the cat
So I went along with her to a bus depot , very near to her house. When I was travelling with her, I saw somebody reading Sanskrit - I was amazed ! 

I told her I need to talk to the person. so I introduced myself and he turned out to be Sanskrit teacher and he is going to ISKCON to teach Sanskrit. His vaishnavite name is Jagadish Daasa. Then I told Fabrico (actual name) that my friends have come from Santos and they are in search of hotels. Can you arrange it over there? He said there is a place to stay in ISKCON , where the guest can stay for few days, normally 3 days. He gave me the address of ISKCON. We exchanged the WhatsApp number and he said he will get back to me after reaching ISKCON and inform me if there are some rooms in ISKCON . He got down near Itahanga Golf Club. ISKCON is located at Estrada da barra da tijuca 2010 Itanhangá.

After some time Jagadish informed me on WhatsApp that some rooms might be there - so you can tell your friends to contact Govinda. I informed the same to Aditya. After that I did not get any communication from them. Only much later Fabrico told me, your friends are now staying in the temple!!  I am sure after reaching ISKCON they are relieved. They have to pay 30 Real per head per day ie around Rs 900 with food !

The exhibition was quite amazing. I learnt that he was such a versatile painter. Then after the exhibition Su went to the Ipanema hippie market - basically a street market - selling handicrafts, painting. There I met a street vendor Uddharana Datta Dasa ! See the video On the way we had some famous Brazilian fruit juice. Fruit juice in Brazil is very famous. Later I understood that because of the variety of fruits from Amazon, it is unique in every sense of the term. However orange juices are similar to the ones we have in India. There are fruit juices or Sucos all over the place. They typically costs 5-6 Reais ie around Rs 175. Only in Favela Rocinha it is cheaper. Some of the famous ones which I tried are Abacaxi, Acerola,Cacau, Camu Camu,Graviola. Su bought some items for Debashree from the hippie market. The market is so interesting I spent rest of the day there. They are selling painting, handicrafts (I saw some Ganesha idol being sold in few places). I even met one Iskcon devotee (Brazilian) selling some stuff. There are some food stalls too. As usual I saw people from Bahia selling Acaraje, Vatapa, Caruru. So I had some Acraje since I was hungry. The roads in Rio is spotlessly clean. Their distinct design of the sidewalk cannot miss your eyes. It was dark. So I decided to return back home. Since it takes almost than 1 hour 30 minutes. 

While I was in the bus I was bit confused which stop should I get down (since it was not a direct bus to Rio centre). I asked one person (X) for guidance. After some time, X got down (before getting down, he had a talk with Y). After some time, Y also got down (before getting down, he had a talk with Z). When it was my turn to get down, Z also got down with me and shown me the right direction to my house !!


Today I decided to go to ISKCON temple to meet Pannada. After going there I saw they are staying in a big room and taking rest. There is no TV in the temple. So they have no clue what is happening outside. In the temple in the evening, they chant Hare Krishna. Aditya and Samir Babu even danced with them. After taking lunch (cake, sweet, Khichuri) there, we decided to go to see Christ the redeemer. There is arrangement to prepare cake, sweet, Khichuri and everything in the kitchen. We took a bus and Metro combo to reach Largo do Machado. Since Pannada is senior citizen - he did not pay anything for the metro at all !!!

The most popular way of reaching the top of Corcovado (meaning hunchback) hill with its landmark statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is the funicular train. A round trip ticket is R$ 51 (students from Brazil and the elderly pay 50%, but are usually requested to prove showing some ID or document). Other option is Minibus.We decided to take Minibus. These can be boarded in Praça do Lido, Copacabana or Largo do Machado, Flamengo (R$41) . Tickets can be bought at each of these locations.

Prices include nonstop van transfer, access to Christ the Redeemer Monument and return trip. The return trip will be to your point of origin; you cannot for instance depart from Praça do Lido and then return to Largo do Machado.
Before going, check the weather, Since it is very cloudy at the top you can't see the statue of the Christ from below. The counter showed a live video of the picture at the Corcovado and you cannot see the Cristo. So they declined to sell the ticket ! We had to wait in the queue for quite some time. Even when we were standing in the queue - we saw people juggling football in a busy street ! (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO) I have seen this everywhere. For the first time I understood the meaning of Ginga in real sense of the term. Brazilian players have ‘ginga’. A special move used to dribble and score. Brazilians are born with ‘ginga’.”

Since we were running out of Real - we decided to buy some Real. Here I met a Bangladeshi who was a volunteer. Fifa, I learnt, takes volunteers from across the globe who have to reach brazil and stay at their own cost. However this experience counts a lot in his career. He told me he is staying at Lapa region. After meeting us he said he is speaking in Bengali after a long time. This man was lucky that his duty was in the galleries and therefore he could watch the match free. After chatting with him for some time we decided to go to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Suddenly I saw a lady with Churidar and Kurta. She is none other than Julia Schettini (now my fb friend and we are still in touch). She is late for her class. She is going to attend her Kathak class. If Pannada was not around I would have surely accompanied her. She had been to India. You will hardly find people in Brazil - who has been to India ! so I had chain of luck !

Pannada decided to skip Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar). As a result all of the members follow suit. Pannada requested me to help them to get the bus to Itanhanga ! He said I cannot rely on Aditya. Against my wish I had to accompany them and told them to get down at a certain metro station to catch the bus to go to Itanhanga ! Then I proceed to go to Pao de Acucar. To the South of Largo do Machado subway station is Flamengo. Then the next station is Botafogo. The very name of these places is enough to excite me. It is a hair raising experience for me ! One is associated with Zico and the second one is associated with Garrincha. These two names are enough to excite me. What is even more interesting is some stations announcements in the metro like football commentary ! CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO - MY FAVOURITE

The other two famous clubs of Rio are Fluminese and Vasco da Gama. To drop Pannada, I had to make a detour to the North of Largo do Machado. The metro fare is same as bus fare.
Anyway I had to take a bus from Botafogo to the cable car's base station, the only point to purchase tickets. The ticket is R$ 62 (50% discount available for elderly citizens).When I reached there it is just dark. So I missed a golden opportunity to go there in day time and come back after dark. The Sugar Loaf mountain with its smaller companion, Morro da Urca, is another Rio top landmark. Going atop is one of the most popular activities in Rio and a definite must-do.

You have to take a cable car to reach Pão de Açúcar or Sugar Loaf mountain - offering magnificent views. Built in 1912, the so-called Bondinho was one of the first cable cars of this type in the world. The Bondinho is used by 2,000 people every day and has two sections: the first going to Morro da Urca (220 m high), the second atop Sugar Loaf (396 m). On top, there is well-developped infrastructure like cafes, restaurants, shops.I spent some time at both Morro da Urca  and Sugar Loaf. You can have a breathtaking 360 degree view from the top.


Today I tried to go to Christ the redeemer again. It was again closed due to cloudy condition and lack of visibility. Today there was match between Argentina vs Switzerland at 1300 hours. The whole city has become famous blue and white. I saw the match at Fifa Fan Fest at Copacabana beach. 

I quickly had my lunch - "comida a kilo" - where you pay by the weight of the food on your plate. The price was relatively cheap at 28 R$ per kg. I took approximately 300 gms. I resisted myself from having Pork Ribs since ribs/bones has a weight, but no flesh. So I opted for boneless items like fish fillet, to make most of it ! I also took some salad. After lunch I went to the beach at Fifa fest to see the match.On the way, I saw a shop selling incense sticks from Bangalore. It is prohibitively expensive !

Today I planned to see the beaches in Rio. Even the most seasoned tourist will find the beaches here  quite stunning. They are wide and clean, with soft white sand. The main beaches have plenty of services for the beach goers, including free showers at the beach, clean pay toilets, life-savers and police, tents and chairs for rent, soft drinks and alcoholic bars, food.

The important beaches are from East to West are Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca, Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Barra da Tijuca, Abricó (nudist beach).

Cariocas or residents of Rio have a unique beach culture. Despite what many foreigners may believe, there are no topless beaches. Girls can wear tiny string bikinis, but it doesn't mean they're exhibitionists. For most of them, it's highly offensive to stare.

Commerce is common in Rio's beaches, with thousands of walking vendors selling everything from sun glasses or bikinis to fried shrimp to cooling beverages , sanduíche (sandwich) and middle eastern food (Kibbehs and pastries). All along the beaches there are also permanent vendors who will sell you a beer and also rent you a beach chair and an umbrella for a few Reais.

Today I could see the copacabana beach only. The atmosphere is beach is simply amazing. I saw people playing football, some of them are juggling (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO), some are playing volleyball. The world had descended on Copacabana beach to party. But I stood transfixed watching two girls playing with a football on the water's edge, oblivious to the revelry— trapping it on the chest and in the same motion passing it to the other without the ball ever touching the ground. Jogo Bonito! “Beautiful game” as Pele said. CLCK HERE FOR THE VIDEO - Muito Bom !

Today I left for ISKCON - when I reached ISKCON, I saw Frioli and his girlfriend. He is a musician - he likes Indian classical music a lot and he wanted to play “Sitara”. So he wanted my help to buy Sitar from India. I took his number and I told him once I go back to India I will try to help him to get Sitar for him. I told him very near to my house there is an instrument shop (Hemen & Co.) from where Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Amjad Ali Khan used to buy. I had dinner with them - the dinner was contributory. So I paid for the dinner after that I chatted some time with them. Since I love Indian classical music we had some interesting conversation and I finally left for Barra de Tijuca – Su’s house.


There is no match today and tomorrow. The quarter final will start from 4.7.14. 

Today I planned to go to the botanical garden - Jardim Botanico , lying in the heart of Rio. Su’s husband dropped me to a place near Botanical garden.

This well kept, magnificent botanical garden is situated east of the lagoon.It is one of the most beautiful parks in Rio. With an area of about 137 football fields, it's worth spending a few hours.  Emperor John VI founded the Botanical Garden in 1808 as a nursery for herbs, teas and spices imported from Asia, exclusively for the royal family. In 1822 the garden was opened to the public, with the addition of ponds and scenic trails and the introduction of a wide range of plants.

Today it is one of the most important botanical gardens in the world, with 8,000 species of plants growing in their natural habitats and in greenhouses. Highlights include orchids, ferns, a collection of medicinal plants. One can see the statue of Christ the Redeemer from the Park. Admission fee is   R$ 6.

Then again I made an effort to go to Christ the redeemer. Today it was cloudy - but not cloudy enough to deny people from entering.We reached the top by their van, amid stunning beauty. When we reached the top there is no view of the Christ because of the cloud. The situation in front of Christ the Redeemer is very interesting - since there is no visibility of Christ , people were sitting just in front of Christ the Redeemer -  waiting for the right moment when they can we see the Christ – with clouds floating away . Some people left without seeing Christ. Suddenly when cloud dispersed for 5 seconds, people started screaming with joy - that they can see the Christ . It was really very funny.

But the very next moment Christ becomes invisible because of the mist and the cloud reappearing. At the top of the Corcovado there is restaurant and cafeteria - so that you can have your drinks and enjoy the view from the top. After playing hide and seek number of times finally we saw the Christ – when I almost lost hope of seeing it. It was Eureka moment for all of us. But unfortunately we cannot see jaw-dropping scenery from the top. You can actually see the Maracana stadium and also sugar loaf mountain from the top of the Corcovado . But because of the cloud we can hardly see anything. Then it is time to come back. On the way to Ipanema, I saw a shop selling Indian incense sticks from Bangaluru and also a picture of Kali ! click here for Ganesha
click here Incense stick or some more

Today I started walking from Ipanema to Leblon beach - 2 of the three famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro. I've already seen copacabana. Today I saw elderly people juggling with football - they have amazing skill. I took the interview
Even at the age of 60 they have simply jaw-dropping skill. 

click here for the video2 - only interview

click here for the video1 - only interview

If you walk along the beach you can also see some people playing guitar , some people beating the drums and I also saw some people standing in the pose of Maradona - if you want to take a picture you have to pay him.  


Then in another place I saw Argentinian people dancing (tango/falmenco) on the beach . I also saw impromptu dance or flash dance in one place. There is real night life around the beach . Here everybody is doing something - there is a jogging track, recycling track - some people are skating ,some people are jogging, some people are cycling, some people at playing, some people are having a beer at numerous roadside Cafe .They are all celebrating life - unlike what we do in India; they spend hours sitting beside the beach leisurely - without thinking of the time to go back home !I stayed there till dark almost. Today is my last day in Suhaila’s house, since they are leaving for US tomorrow. Su’s husband made some Caipirinha for me. It is really good. It tastes very much like Fresh lime soda! 

( I don’t like alcohol. Though I find red wine interesting. After a long time I liked some alcoholic drink! We had a long chat. Brazilians are very fascinated by India and some also think that India is a very open country because it is the land of Kamasutra! They are curious about the cows on the streets and love Bollywood. This recent interest is due to a very popular Emmy winning telenovela (TV Soap) Caminho das Indias - which brought India into the living rooms of the Brazilians. All actors are Brazilians who speak in Portuguese!  Music was taken from Bollywood films and the names were all Indian. I was amazed how so many locals could be passed off as Indians. They also know of Calcutta as Teresa de Kalkuta because of Mother Teresa, who is very well known not only in brazil but also all around Latin Amercia (all of Latinos I have met know Mother Teresa – when they were not too sure of Kolkata or Kalkukta). I interviewed almost all my hosts and hardly anybody knows about cricket not surprisingly for me.

I already talked to Aditya that from tomorrow I will be home less ! They said Govidna is not willing to accommodate any more guest. I told them to request them once again.


Today  also there is no match. After bidding them adieu, I left for itihanga Golf Club for ISKCON. After reaching there, I saw Pannada and Aditya are still sleeping in the Temple guest house. I asked them if they have  requested Govinda once again; they said Govinda told them “ he cannot stay here - as we have accommodated you enough and you have already overstayed - so we can’t allow any more guests” . I had a feeling that they haven't tried enough. When I told her wife if I sleep in their room what is the problem ? Then she said there is no space in this room - the way they said I did not like it. After doing so much for them -this is the reward ! Actually Govinda has already left in the morning (for downtown for spreading the word of Krishna) - so I cannot talk to him. Anyway after spending some time over there I decided to go to the   Lapa for my own accommodation. The other day I've seen some hostels  in that area - so I have already done my homework; after reaching the place I knew exactly where I'm going to stay - so I went straight into that locality and luckily there is a room for me at dirt cheap price by Brazilian standard.

So I was relieved when I got a place to stay and that too in a place very near to the Lapa party zone - the downtown of Rio de Janeiro.  I was also happy for the first time I don't have to go back home early in the evening - which I have done till date - since Su’s house is quite far from the Downtown of Rio and interestingly my room rent is actually lower than that of  ISKCON  (without food though) . I cannot be happier so it is good in every possible way. It is better than is ISKCON, since ISKCON  is also quite far from the downtown. After checking in my hotel I left for Santa Teresa - a very famous place in Rio. In fact it is adjacent to the Lapa region. So everything worked perfectly.

Santa Teresa is a neighbourhood with cobblestone streets and neat houses sits on top of the mountain. It’s where the ‘peace & love types’ hang out and many artists have their studios and crafts workshops, some even open to the public.  Until recently one could ride a tram for a few cents to this scenic neighbourhood. The tram is currently closed, after accidents, but it is planned to reopen. Santa Teresa neighbourhood has plenty of pleasant bed and breakfasts and from Santa Teresa one can have a wonderful view of the whole city. I had another reason to go there !  At 162 Rua oriente lies Ramkrishna Vedanta house. When I reached there it is already closed.

Walking in the Santa Teresa is really a pleasant experience. Santa Teresa neighbourhood, located on the hills to the southwest, is home to many of the city's artists.

When I reached Lapa (basically it is at the base of Santa Teresa) it is already dark. Rio's Centro (Downtown) has most of the city's notable churches and museums, including the Modern Art Museum, as well as many of its most famous bars. Lapa is one of the most thrilling places to be in Rio Centro  after dark with streets and bars full of people, all in historical buildings (most of them from the early 1800s). In Lapa you can hear typical Brazilian music such as samba, forró, and choro. It's the place to try typical Brazilian food and drinks like the world famous Caipirinha.

Today I had food from the stalls on the streets of Lapa. There are numerous temporary stalls put up in that area. Pannada’s hostel was just in front of that area. I listened to the music and had some Caipirinha and went to my hostel very late.


Today is a big match day in Rio. Today is 1st day of quarter final. First match between Germany vs France starts at 1300 hours. Early in the morning I left for ISKCON, by checking out of the hostel. Pannada is supposed to get some match ticket for us. If you have match ticket with you - they don’t charge anything for the bus or metro. From ISKCON, we planned to go to Maracana stadium to see if he can get some tickets I kept my luggage (after checking out from Lapa hostel ) in ISKCON where Pannada & co are staying. Today we left for Maracana hoping that he will get ticket for us – at the stadium by using Pannada’s source. So we all left together , but after reaching Maracana I saw the place has been cordoned off - so unless you have ticket cannot go anywhere near the stadium - so my hope of getting a ticket with the help of Pannada was dashed – as there is no way I can get a ticket. There is huge demand for ticket too.

                                CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO
Since they had a ticket they went anyway. Security people are not allowing you to go anywhere near the stadium - without a valid ticket - but I tried different options from different routes, if I can go near Maracana - but all the routes were cordoned off - so there is no way I can go to the Maracana. Anyways I saw the match at the giant screen.
Today the second match will start at 3. So I decided to see the match at the biggest slum in Rio de Janeiro. My plan was to go to go there long back, but Su warned me not to go there - because it is very dangerous. Today is the second quarter final match between Brazil and Colombia. So I thought let's give it a try - so I took a bus to go to Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America. Like other slums in Rio , in Rocinha  people has made their house along the slopes of hillocks - that is the case in case of almost all the slums in Brazil, because of the inaccessibility, normal people cannot stay in those places - so they use this opportunity to stay around the slopes . In fact there is a slum at Santa Teresa also - I tried to go there - for that I had to take the staircase to go down . But after some point of time I saw police cars guarding the place. During the world cup in the favela or the slums, because of this police patrol - there was no untoward incident happening. When I saw the police standing there - I thought it's too risky to go further down - because they can find out that I am not from this country; I had no business staying there.

The people who stay in the favela - for them commuting is a big problem - because there is no proper Road. Life in favela is not very easy. In the beaches of Copacabana I met some hawkers and  some Colombians who are staying in the favela. You cannot survive in favela without knowing Portuguese because they don’t understand English. since the Colombian speak Spanish and Portuguese people generally understand Spanish, but not the other way around, because the pronunciation of the Portuguese people are normally not phonetically correct - so it is difficult for a non Portuguese to understand what they are saying, but a Portuguese people can generally understand Spanish because Spanish people/the Colombian people speak Spanish - the way it should have been spoken - so they can understand Spanish. I saw so many Colombian supporters in the Copa or world cup, sometimes it seemed to me half of the population has become Colombian. Many Colombians or Argentinians are using various ingenious way to survive in Brazil. Either some of them are posing as Maradona and collection money or some are doing flamenco dance ( CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO ) and some of them are hawking on the pavement of Copacabana - such is their love for the game. I learnt many of them are staying in home stays in favelas. (CLICK HERE FOR A WONDERFUL VIDEO) My plan to stay in a favelas home stay dashed, since I could not meet Adriele – because she was busy. When she was free, I was busy.

Anyway after getting down from the bus I discovered a new Rio de Janeiro - here the price is much less than what I have found in other part of Rio - it reminded me of the slums in Kolkata - they have the real passion for the game - which I was missing in people, with whom I was staying. The way people in the slums in Kolkata see a match in TV - I saw similar things here. TV sets were put up every 10-15 metres in serpentine alleys - wrapped in flags, big and small. (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO) Life had come to a halt. Each pass triggered animated debates, each missed chance fuelled agitated reactions. Today I saw the match sitting in front of television . In today's match between Brazil V Colombia , Brazil won 2-1. When Brazil scored, hundreds of chocolate bombs were burst, just like back home. (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO)

click here for a video of Brazilian commentary

Despite the happy memories of watching matches on the giant screen at the beach, one of my best experiences was seeing a Brazil match live in Rocinha,  in the slum Nobody understands English unlike other parts of Rio. So as I started walking inside the favelas after the match using the small serpentine by lanes - it’s like Bhool Bhulaiya - there is a very good chance, that I will get lost and nobody will be able to show me the right direction - because nobody will understand my language and I might even be mugged. The violence in slums is an issue here. Unlike Kolkata only difference here is that you will go upwards because it's a hilly area. Since it's very very easy to get lost - so I didn't take any more  chance - so I decided to return back - from where I can go back to ISKCON and finally take a BUS to go to Sao Paulo. For the first time I felt at home - for the first time I saw a real passion among the people - exactly the way people react in slums in Kolkata. (CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO - POOR QUALITY)

All my hosts so far, were white upper class people who loved football but somehow the passion was missing.

After I went back to ISKCON , I met Govinda. I told Govinda “how much I wanted to stay at least one day in ISKCON. I'm coming from the place of Prabhupada - your guru - but I was sad that you didn't let me in - I just needed a floor to sleep. I didn't ask for anything else.” 
Then Govinda said something which is very interesting - I told your friend there is not much space in that room - how can he sleep in that room - I don't have any problem - if he wants to stay here - but how can he stay here. This is completely different version from what I have heard from Pannada. Probably they misunderstood because of their lack of English knowledge!

In ISKCON we met  a person who comes regularly there. Pannada requested that person if he can show him around the city of Rio - at least he wanted to go to the places near Itihanga Golf Club . Though he initially refused to go there, due to his prior engagement, due to persistent nature of Pannada , that person agreed to show him near ISKCON. That will be the only day in Rio , when Pannada and his friends went for sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro. Pannada will stay few more days in Rio. Today I left for Sao Paulo by night bus at 12.30 am. It will reach Rio early morning at 7 am.                                             

Today I met Andre. He stays at Santo Amaro . It is quiet far from Sao Paulo. Basically you have to take  a  bus and    metro combo to reach his place. He was waiting for me at the station at Pinheiros.  If I kept the luggage at the left luggage facility, then the rate for the day would have been 10 Reis for the whole day for a big bag.I kept it in his car. He took me around  with  his car  and even shown me some favelas in Sao Paulo. That place looked like , say Lake camp slum, near Dhakuria Lake area. We had our lunch in a restaurant. We went to a place where car rally takes place. I saw the cars practising with a deafening sound. Brazil is very good in racing. Ayrton Senna is their icon.

He also took me to a place where people play futsal. Futsal is one of my favourite games. It is akin to football and but only 5 players play and it is played with canvas shoe, unlike football boot. So in futsal you need sublime skill. There is no power play. I am great fan of Falcao of Brazil (not the Falcao of 1982 fame). His exploits in futsal is probably equal to what Maradona did in the bigger version. If you don’t believe me see this video
I learnt that in Brazil people hire grounds on hourly basis. We saw some people playing. It was the only wish, which left unfulfilled till today. After spending some time with him, I bid him adieu at the train station. Today is the only day in Brazil when I took a local train. All these days I was travelling by bus or metro.
In the bus station I lost my moneybag. I used 2 moneybags in Brazil. I assumed my money stolen will be stolen today or tomorrow. Hugo gave me a pouch on the day of my arrival for keeping my money inside my pant. For day to day living I had a small wallet, kept in my pant which was lost. I lost around Rs 10,000. As a result I could not buy something which I planned to buy on the last date. In fact I had hardly any money left. I left for Sao Paulo Airport little early, after reporting to the police. First I took the train and metro and finally bus to reach the airport. Somehow I managed with little money I had with me.


Today my plane left for India at 1.15 am at night. We were supposed to reach Addis Ababa at 8.50 pm to catch the connecting flight to Mumbai at 9.20 pm. As luck would have it we  missed the connecting flight. Since they belong to same aeroplane company, so we were kept at a 4 star quality hotel. There are many Indians staying in Africa these days. They all boarded the plane from Lome, Togo (Togo is an important hub for Ethiopian airlines. The route is Sao Paulo -Togo- Addis Ababa). They started misbehaving with the people in the counter. Since India is a very racist country, they think Africans are their slaves. The way they were talking to them, I really felt ashamed that I am from India. I somehow managed to keep the Ethiopians in good humor. I told them I am a great fan of Haile Gebrselassie.   He is a national hero - one of the finest long distance runners of all time. I always wanted to visit Ethiopia...the cradle of human civilization with its unique culture .
Have you ever heard somebody missing a flight AND YET VERY HAPPY !! I was the only person happy at missing the flight. I wisely kept one day gap between my date of arrival in Mumbai and date of departure from Mumbai. So it was not a problem for me. We were given a temporary transit visa. Our flight is rescheduled next day without any additional cost on us. We reached our hotel at around 12.10 am at night !
Since it was very late when we checked in there was hardly any food left in the hotel.I had beef Pulao.

7/7/14 - ADDIS ABABA

As usual, I took the lead role to form a group. Other stranded passengers has unanimously made me the group leader for the city tour !  I went from one room to another room to convince them. I asked the hotel to book a car for us for a city tour . It was indeed arranged - but at the last moment most of them backed out. A small group (including me) went to a certain place in Addis. They dropped me at a convenient place -  so that I can make the city tour on my own - by a matatu kind of thing like Kenya (similar to Maruti van - their version of Auto rickshaw). 

Whatever I seen in Addis Ababa, it does not create much enthusiasm. Before that I went to a bank to change some currency (bira).  In the streets of Addis Ababa I saw people still using donkey - to carry things.
The roads are not that clean. Their population is almost same as West Bengal at 10 crores (100 million) , but size is 12 times bigger than West Bengal at 11 lakh (1.1 million) sq Km and per capita income is only   600 USD less than half of India. Indian flower company Karturi Global once made it really big in Ethiopia. There are many Chinese companies also.

But Ethiopia has an amazing history - which very few country in the world can claim. Hazrat Mohammad sent some of his disciples from Medina to Ethiopia - when he was constantly attacked by people from Mecca. I have seen the pictures of Ethiopia - which are quite amazing though Addis seemed to me to be quite ugly. I walked all the way to the famous anthropological museum. Ethiopia is home to Lucy. Most of the Ethiopians can be easily passed off as Keralite. In the museum I met two sisters who look exactly like them. With their permission I took their picture. You cannot confuse Ethiopians with say a Kenyan. Ethiopians are much light skinned. I noticed this thing carefully only after reaching Ethiopia.

Traditional dress

“ Ethiopia has always held a special place in my own imagination and the prospect of visiting Ethiopia attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England, and America combined. I felt I would be visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me an African” - Nelson Mandela.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa . Ethiopia is also the place for the first Hijra (615 AD) in Islamic history where the Christian king of Ethiopia accepted Muslim refugees from Mecca sent by the prophet Mohammad. Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world. In the long and disturbed history of the African continent, Ethiopia remains the only country which has never been colonised.

The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem.

In fact, historians believe that Ethiopia may well be the beginning of mankind. The fossils of the oldest living mankind or "Lucy" was discovered in the northern section of Ethiopia. The remains of the fossil is said to be 3.5 million years old. It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of  North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia is widely considered the site of the emergence of anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens.

Ethiopia was historically called Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name, modern Habesha. In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by "Abyssinia".

Highlights of Ethiopia
1. Top of the human family tree - Meet your ancestor
2. Birthplace of Coffee - Ethiopia's gift to the world. Few people know that the origin of coffee is from Kaffa region in the western part of Ethiopia, hence the similarity in name Kaffa – Coffee.
3. Addis Ababa is somewhat like an ancient walled city, sitting within the embrace of mountain ranges. The city’s architecture, open-air market and street life reveal Ethiopian’s authentic and ancient religious and cultural blends and has recently been ranked 9th in Lonley planet’s annual ‘ best cities to visit in 2013’ list.
4. Home to Sacred cities for Christianity & Islam.Ethiopia is symbolic of the spiritual soul-force of African people, accepting Christianity in the 4th century; the biblical Ark of the Covenant mysteriously disappeared from Jerusalem sometime before Christ. However, Ethiopians and some western theorists say they know exactly where it is: enshrined in a chapel in Axum, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the place for the first Hijra (615 AD) in Islamic history where the Christian king of Ethiopia accepted Muslim refugees from Mecca sent by the prophet Mohammad.

Ethiopia’s connection with Islam goes as far back as the 7th century, during the times of the Prophet himself. The Negashi Mosque in the Tigray Region is famously known as the first mosque of the continent. Besides, Harar with its more than 90 mosques and shrines in its old walled city of Jugol, is rightly claimed to be the 4th most sacred city in the world for Islam after Mecca, Medina and Al Aqsa Mosque.
5. Dallol: Officially the Hottest Inhabited place on earth
6. Highest number of World Heritage Sites in Africa
7. Unique Alphabet and Calendar: Ethiopia is one of the few nations in the world that can claim singular ownership of its alphabet. Ethiopia runs on a completely different calendar system to the rest of the world.

## Their alpahbets are unique no doubt !
8. The Great African Rift-valley - The most remarkable valley on the planet
9 The Mosaic of African Cultures: Last remaining unspoiled authentic tribes of Africa. The tribal ring of the Omo Valley is home to some of the most fascinating and colorful peoples of Ethiopia, which are often described as the last remaining unspoiled authentic tribes of Africa. With well over 80 linguistic groups, each with its own unique tradition and fascinating ways of life, Ethiopia exhibits impressive colorful costumes, awe-inspiring ceremonies and celebrations, art, craft, music and dances that make Ethiopia a true mosaic of African culture. Interestingly Ethiopians ruled Bengal from 1487-1493.

My friend Abdul Qadir from Malaysia has written " One Japanese traveller I met in Gujarat in my past journey, just returned home after a year plus 'round the world' trip. I asked him which is the top three places he loved much and he told me it's
1. Hunza in Northern Pakistan
2. Pamir n Walkhan corridor in Tajikistan
3. Iran or Ethiopia"

I had famous Injera bread and other dishes at the hotel. It is quite Nice.  In the evening the bus picked us up from the hotel and dropped us at the airport - all free of cost.


I reached Mumbai after missing connecting flight in Addis Ababa and in Mumbai I saw my suitcase has not arrived ! But I had to rush to domestic airport to catch my flight to Kolkata.  The day I landed in Calcutta, Brazil crashed out of the World cup. Watching the debacle on TV, it was the people of the favelas , who seemed to embody the passion we associate Brazil with, that my heart went out to.

Some interesting tidbits:

# Argentinians derogatorily called folgados (easy living, no initiative type and living on others – spoon feeding type)
 # Telephone calls very expensive  - so everyone texts or   whatsapp
  # Every third person was a Colombian during the world cup
  # Cycling tracks all over the country
  # Amazing roads all over
  # Skating is a national obsession
  # Huge Iskcon presence in South America
  # High regard for India
  # Futsal, volleyball being extremely popular
  # Portuguese understands Spanish but not vice versa
  # Juggling with the ball a very common sight all over the place           
   # Some stations announcements in the metro is just like football commentary
   # Google translator acting as a life saver
   # No racism
   # How many people thought I am  from Chile or Peru; how  “t”   is pronounced as ch like foocheball, j as h - Hio de Janeiro     etc and d is j like direta is jireta....How people from Rio taunt   Bahians for pronouncing footebol as  foocheball !
   # Sao Paulo is pronounced as Sun Paulo
   # Public display of love and affection is seen every where
   # Same bus fare and metro fare of around 3 or 3.5 R$ is same  for one stop and also 20 stops...but I was told it was around  5 R$ ... but it was reduced after the protests and there is a  good possibility that it will increase after the world cup (1 R$  = 28.5)
  # Brazilian fruit juice all over the place – called sucos – fruits from Amazon like Acai etc are unique
  # How I have kept chhatu and chirebhaja in my cargo pants for saving time for lunch....and also sometimes money, to make some interesting tour possible
  # National drink capirinha is a cocktail of caxacha (a type of rum like beverage?) and squeezed lemon is the national drink


There’s a lot more to the World Cup hosts than football and samba. When we think of Brazil it is of sequined samba dancers, dazzlingly talented footballers and murderous clashes between police and cocaine traffickers. But there is much more to this vast and varied country, which was already inhabited by a large indigenous population when it was “discovered” by the Portuguese in 1500. “The deep, authentic and serious Brazil is much more than glitz, fashion, and sensuality,” says Larry Rohter, Brazil correspondent for the New York Times, in his book Brazil on the Rise. “While the rest of the world has been distracted by images of soccer players with fancy footwork and beauties in skimpy bathing suits, Brazil has without much fanfare become an industrial and agricultural powerhouse.”

Here are 10 things worth knowing about South America’s largest nation, none of them to do with football.

1 It’s even bigger than you thought

Brazilians often say their country is one of “continental dimensions”, and they are not wrong. In terms of land mass, Brazil’s 3.28 million square miles make it the fifth largest country on earth, behind only Russia, China, Canada and the United States. You could fit nearly 35 United Kingdoms into the space of just 1 Brazil.
Its Amazon region – spread across nine states – covers almost 2 million square miles and is home to Altamira, reputedly the largest municipality on earth, and Xingu, one of the world’s largest Catholic dioceses.

To fly from Manaus, where England play their first match, to São Paulo, where they play their second, takes about five hours. To make the same journey by land and water, using boats and roads, could take weeks.

2 Coffee matters but soy matters more
Brazil is an agricultural superpower. While the country might be best known for its samba and supermodels, its most important export is the soy bean.
Last year it became the world’s largest soy exporter; it is expected to harvest around 90 million tons of soy beans this year and to send 44 million tons of the commodity overseas, mostly to China and the US. Brazil is also a major producer of corn, sugar cane, beef and cotton, and its Congress is home to an increasingly powerful agricultural lobby with major influence on government policy.

3 The president’s a former guerrilla
In 2010 Brazil stole a march on the US by electing its first female president. Dilma Rousseff, 66, is a former guerrilla who fought Brazil’s military dictatorship during the Sixties and Seventies, and was jailed and tortured for her actions.President Rousseff’s party, the Workers’ Party or PT, has been in power since 2003 and has been credited with lifting millions out of poverty and propelling them into Brazil’s growing middle class.

However, Rousseff is coming to the end of her first term in power and faces a battle to be re-elected in October. Her chances are not helped by growing discontent about the quantity of money that has been pumped into the World Cup rather than public services.
In a rare meeting with foreign journalists last week, Rousseff dismissed criticism of Brazil’s preparations for the World Cup. “Nobody can build a metro in two years,” she said, adding: “Well, maybe China.”

4  170 languages – and not one of them is Spanish
Brazilians do not speak Spanish. The national tongue is Portuguese, the sixth most-spoken language on earth. But Brazilian Portuguese is not the only language in these parts. Once home to thousands of tongues, Brazil still has a great diversity of languages, many of them under threat and understood by a dwindling number of people. Researchers believe there are about 170 indigenous languages spoken by Brazilians.

5  It snows
Most Europeans think of Brazil as a tropical beach paradise of golden sands, blazing sunshine and postage stamp-size bikinis. But last year it snowed in more than 30 Brazilian cities in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina.

6 RIo is nervous
Football fans visiting Rio de Janeiro might be expecting a caipirinha-fuelled World Cup carnival. But cariocas, as locals are known, are a nervous bunch at the moment. Rio residents are grappling with an uncertain future as Sergio Cabral, their governor since 2007, steps aside, prompting fears that the city could once again be plunged back into violence after crime levels had fallen. Cabral, who oversaw a pioneering security project designed to reclaim the city’s slums from armed gangs, stepped down in April and elections for his successor are due in October. Many locals will tell you there isn’t a single good candidate to replace him.
Meanwhile, recent months have seen a resurgence in gun crime that has set the city on edge. For many people in Rio now, the future looks grim.

7 Brazil builds planes as well as carnival floats...

Few outside the industry know it, but Brazil is home to the world’s third largest aircraft manufacturer. Embraer, which was founded during the 1964 military regime and privatised in 1994, today defers only to Airbus and Boeing in size. Based in São José dos Campos, in São Paulo state, the company has established itself as the global leader in regional jets.
Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, is also a leader in its field, having made some of the largest oil discoveries on earth this century. Despite being marred by a recent spate of scandals, Petrobras continues to be a pioneer in deep-sea oil exploration and presides over vast sub-salt oil reserves off Brazil’s south-eastern coast.

8 ...and loves classical and country music as well as bossa nova

To most outsiders, Brazil is the land of bossa nova and samba. But it also gave the world one of the greatest classical composers to emerge from the Americas. Heitor Villa-Lobos, who was born in Rio in 1887, was a cellist and composer who produced some of the defining pieces of Brazilian classical music.
Nor is classical music is the only surprise genre to have emerged from the country. Brazil is also a major consumer of country music – músicasertaneja, they call it – and evangelical pop. Some of the best-selling records of recent years have been the work not of samba artists but of Catholic priests, pop stars in cowboy hats and Bible-carrying crooners.

9 It’s coming out of its shell

Brazil is not known as a major player in international relations, but it has been showing increasing confidence in recent years. It has led a UN stabilisation mission in Haiti since 2004, and is a key player in international climate change negotiations. Under LuizInácio Lula da Silva, President Rousseff’s predecessor, it even launched an attempt to mediate the stand-off between the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the West over his country’s nuclear progamme.

10 But it isn’t quite the 'rainbow nation’

In 2010, for the first time, more than half of Brazil’s population officially declared itself black or of mixed race – that’s more than 90 million people. However, you wouldn’t know if from looking at the country’s political and business elite, which is almost uniformly white.

Brazil has been described as a “racial democracy” and South America’s rainbow nation. But not one of the companies listed on Brazil’s main stock-exchange index has a black CEO, according to a recent Bloomberg report. Only one of Brazil’s 39 senior ministers is black. Afro-Brazilians earn less, live in worse conditions and die younger than their white counterparts.
How much of all of this will the coming orgy of World Cup coverage reflect? Very little, probably. But at least you’ll now have something to talk about at half time.

Race In Brazil: Majority-Minority Nation Offers Lesson To U.S.

Many Brazilians cast their country as racial democracy where people of different groups long have intermarried, resulting in a large mixed-race population. But you need only turn on the TV, open the newspaper or stroll down the street to see clear evidence of segregation.
In Brazil, whites are at the top of the social pyramid, dominating professions of wealth, prestige and power. Dark-skinned people are at the bottom of the heap, left to clean up after others and take care of their children and the elderly.
The 2010 census marked the first time in which black and mixed-race people officially outnumbered whites, weighing in at just over 50 percent, compared with 47 percent for whites. Researchers suggest that Brazil actually may have been a majority-non white country for some time, with the latest statistics reflecting a decreased social stigma that makes it easier for nonwhites to report their actual race.
It is a mix of anomalies in Brazil that offers lessons to a United States now in transition to a "majority-minority" nation: how racial integration in social life does not always translate to economic equality, and how centuries of racial mixing are no guaranteed route to a color blind society.
Nearly all TV news anchors in Brazil are white, as are the vast majority of doctors, dentists, fashion models and lawyers. Most maids and doormen, street cleaners and garbage collectors are black. There is only one black senator and there never has been a black president, though a woman, DilmaRousseff, leads the country now.A decade of booming economic growth and wealth-redistribution schemes has narrowed the income gap between blacks and whites, but it remains pronounced. In 2011, the average black or mixed-race worker earned just 60 percent what the average white worker made. That was up from 2001, when black workers earned 50.5 percent what white workers made, according to Brazil's national statistics agency.
Brazil recently instituted affirmative action programs to help boost the numbers of black and mixed-race college students, though both groups continue to be proportionally underrepresented at the nation's universities. They made up just 10 percent of college students in 2001, and now account for 35 percent. Those numbers probably will continue to rise because of a new law that reserves half the spots in federal universities for high school graduates of public schools and distributes them according to states' racial makeup.Still, black faces remain the exception at elite colleges.
Nubia de Lima, a 29-year-old black producer for Globo television network, said she experiences racism on a daily basis, in the reactions and comments of strangers who are constantly taking her for a maid, a nanny or a cook, despite her flair for fashion and pricey wardrobe.
"People aren't used to seeing black people in positions of power," she said. "It doesn't exist. They see you are black and naturally assume that you live in a favela (hillside slum) and you work as a housekeeper."
She said upper middle-class black people like her are in a kind of limbo, too affluent and educated to live in favelas but still largely excluded from high-rent white neighborhoods.
"Here it's a racism of exclusion," de Lima said.

Very interesting photo tour of Brazil

Another interesting article

25 of the best World Cup photos ever – in pictures


Unknown said...

Boma - you have got me hooked to your write up. Just amazing.

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Arya Steve said...
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