Every year, sometime around February, I remember media channels and publications covering the Carnival in Rio De Janeiro. From a distance, I have been party to bits and pieces and always imagined the Rio Carnival to be an orgy of millions of semi-naked Samba dancers in glittering costumes. I was terribly wrong. This very moment, as I am sitting in the balcony of a South zone apartment in Rio, sipping Cerveja (beer), and listening to a Samba band pass by in the street below followed by hundreds of people moving to the addictive rhythm, I feel a part of the real Rio Carnival.
One of the toughest decisions since I reached Brazil was choosing the city where I would spend time during the Carnival. Whether it is the traditional carnival of Olinda or the Afro-Brazil influence in Salvador or the mud parade in Paraty, every city in Brazil boasts of a Carnival with its own unique touch. Having read that it was possible to do something every hour for the entire month of February in Rio and wanting to experience everything possible as a first timer at Carnival, I chose Rio.
It has been 10 days since I reached Rio De Janeiro and I learnt a few things about the grand Rio Carnival. If there is one word to describe 72 hours of no sleep, having beer and barbecue for breakfast, thousands of people sporting crazy costumes and dancing in the streets, its called ‘Blocos De Rua’ – the street parties of Rio, that take place in every neighbourhood all day long.
If there is one place where there are more feathers than the bird population of the world, more colours than you can mix on Corel Draw, more perfect bodies than you can imagine, more fireworks than Diwali, more cheering and competitive spirit than any sporting event, this place is called ‘Sambodromo’ – the place that houses the Samba Competition among the top schools of Rio.
If there is one place where you can see carpenters, electricians, painters, artists, musicians, dancers, writers and technicians working towards one goal, with incredible teamwork and effort, its called ‘Cidade Do Samba’ – Samba City, the place where the Carnival paraphernalia is produced.
If there is one reason why bumblebees, mummies, angels, devils, prostitutes, musicians, magicians, clowns and cross-dressers hang out together, its thanks to ‘Fantasia’ – costumes, the very DNA of the Carnival.
If there are people peeing on the streets, homeless picking up beer cans to sell and make money, dirty starving street kids crawling under the stands to pickpocket tourists, drunk men beating up their women in broad daylight, people throwing up from bus windows, its called ‘Realidade’ – reality, one thing that even Rio Carnival cannot escape.
If there is one word for energy, life and spirit, it is ‘Cariocas‘ – the people of Rio De Janeiro, who are the drivers behind the biggest party of the world. I leave with a backpack full of glittering memories from the Carnival and symptoms of a strange disease. My feet move three steps even when I am asleep and this disease is called Samba Itch. What a perfect souvenir from the Carnival!