CARNIVAL OF LOVE!

HOPEFUL: With every year the carnival becomes more commercial to the point where the Goan tourist industry is looking forward to Carnival 2018 mainly in the hope that tourists lured by the hype will make up for a so-far dismal tourist season

Even the Church has urged Christian love birds to combine Valentine’s Day with the last day of the carnival on Tuesday, February 13, to avoid clashing with Ash Wednesday. RAJAN NARAYAN goes down memory lane of all the carnivals and the Valentine’s Days he has celebrated in Goa

THIS year carnival and Valentine follow each other closely. Except that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday which is a very holy occasion for the Catholic community. Indeed devout Catholics can celebrate Valentine’s Day along with the carnival on Tuesday the last day of the carnival. Traditionally the red and black dance organised jointly by the Club Vasco Da Gama and Club National on the street below Club National has been the really wild and happening climax of the carnival. Those who want a little more comfort and do not want to spend all their time on the floor jiving away have the choice of going to the red, black and gold dance at the Mandovi Riviera.

I got married on February 10, 2001. Which meant that my better three quarters could enjoy her first Valentine’s Day post marriage soon after we did the Parikarma (chaar pheras) in the Arya Samaj tradition. I recall spending our first Valentine’s Day in Goa at the Marriott with another couple where the wife happened to be a long time former secretary of mine called Mariolla. She moved with me from the Onlooker to the Mirror and finally the Imprint, the first three magazines that I was the editor off.

Way back in 1983, the carnival floats were spectacular. They were mostly sponsored by large commercial houses. This tradition dates back to the Portuguese colonial regime when Goa was a maxi Dubai. Customs duty were nominal and Goa was the magnet for all of India who wanted imported goods ranging from brands like Revlon and  Dior to Ray Ban glasses,  Parker pens and even Gillette blades and gramophone records. Among the first imported, branded aftershave lotions, Old Spice, was produced in Goa. Even Pascoal Menezes, the patriarch of the CMM group which used to be the largest trading house patronised by film stars like Nargis and Sunil Datt, used to take part in the carnival floats.

There is an very amusing story related to Pascoal Menezes taking part in the Old Spice carnival float disguised as a handsome woman. Nothing but the best would do for Pascoal who imported falsies from Japan. A close friends of his mistook him for a real woman. And fell madly in love with him. He kept showering flowers and flying kisses toward Pascoal. When the parade ended and Pascoal finally return to his house in Altinho the love stuck friend followed him into the house only to discover that the lady he had fallen in love with was a man in disguise!

KONKANI AGITATION

THE carnival has been held every single year in Goa even during the height of the Konkani agitation when Churchill Alemao banned the carnival. Churchill Alemao threatened violence against anyone who participated in the carnival that year as the whole of Goa was supposed to be mourning the death of two young men shot during the Konkani agitation.

The Travel and Tourism Association of Gos (TTAG)was in a panic. They were in two minds on whether to go ahead with the carnival. I remember a meeting in the Mandovi hotel where the majority wanted to scrap the carnival rather then risk the anger of Churchill’s goons. I was present and insisted that the show should go on and we should not allow Churchill to stop the carnival. It was finally decided to have a symbolic carnival which started near the Post Office of Panjim and ended at the Azad Maidan. The office bearers of the TTAG along with their families, including the pregnant wife of Babu Keni, the owner of Mandovi Hotel, walked bravely in defiance of the ban on the carnival by Churchill.

FANQUITO

WHEN I first came to Goa on the eve of my first carnival I heard strong rumours that narcotic drugs were consumed in large quantities during the carnival parades. It was alleged that the then king of the carnivals, Francisco Martins, encouraged the boys and girls who danced for four to six hours continuously by giving them drugs as they could not get the energy to dance so long without them.

I was quite agitated and confronted Fanquito (as Francisco Martins is known) in the house of his in-laws which was very close to the Herald office. The king of entertainment invited me to come to his house in Ribandar to discuss what he insisted were baseless allegations. Fanquito still remembers my agitation and angry allegation in front of his wife and mother-in-law. He managed to convinced me that there were no drugs but admitted that a lot of daru was consumed.

Fanquito’s floats were a must-see in those days and many Goan youth got a chance to participate in the carnival parade because of him. Among those who participated in Fanquito’s floats in her youth was senior journalist Devika Sequeira.

KING MOMO

FOR the first time to my knowledge, the King Momo, Bruno Azaredo, has been chosen from South Goa. Traditionally King Momo has been from Panjim or neighbouring areas. The basic qualification for King Momo is that he should be tall and broad and tough looking but jolly.

There were many interesting King Momos in the past. Among them being the politician Francisco Sardinha, who became the chief minister for five months before he was toppled by Manohar Parrikar. The former mayor and now owner of Red Rosary, Tony Fernandes, was also a king. But by far  the strangest choice for King Momo one year was the professional dog killer hired by the CCP. He used to go about with a gun shooting stray dogs and would get paid by the number of tails of the dogs he had shot as proof!

NEW RULES

EVERY year there are fresh demands on the commercialisation of the carnival. Every year depending on which government is in power new rules are introduced. This time around we hope it is not going to be a Hindutuva carnival.

The usual guidelines have always been in place. That there should be not vulgarity. To which may be added a dress code. In all the carnivals that are held every year the girls on the floats and those who dance along the route of the carnival compete to displace their shapely legs. Minis are part of any carnival. But with a Governor who believes at all women should be the sati savitris, the government may insists of the participants in the floats wearing sarees and salwar kamiz or even burkas. There are fresh restrictions even on the junk car rally which is a carnival of vintage old cars. This time Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has banned all polluting cars.

I have enjoyed the carnival and faithfully attended it for the last 35 years. In the early days there was no barricade between the people in the floats and the audience. Over the years not just ropes but bamboo barriers have come up between people participating in the floats and people watching the floats. The carnival was always meant to be a peoples festival. Which is why old time Goans and Niz Goenkars always made a difference between the carnival and the Carnaval. In the past we used to have the Carnaval which was the people’s celebration. Now we have the government controlled carnival where not only the king Momo is chosen by the tourism department but a censor board inspects the floats before joining the parade. I wonder how many Padmavatis will be banned from the carnival this time.

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