NEW KING Momo: Emiliano Dias from Raia has been chosen to be the new King Momo for Carnival 2022 from among seven candidates, who had applied for the four day rule of king momo. For the four days from February 26 to March 1, Emiliano Dias will be the King of Goa. King Momo will read out the proclamation asking everyone to be enjoy life and be merry during the Carnival.
By Rajan Narayan
In the light of the Covid-19 positivity falling under 5% the Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP) has decided to go back to the good old-fashioned Carnival or “Carnaval.” The highlight of the carnival will be Samba Square at the Jardim Garcia de Orta ( Muncipal Garden) while the food arcade along the Miramar beach promenade will encourage foodpreneurs….
THE government of Goa has always been more concerned about tourism revenue than the spread of Covid-19. So not surprisingly with the signs of the third wave of Covid-19 receding, the State has decided to have a mega carnival. Though CCP Commissioner Agnelo J Fernandes insists that Goa is returning to the good old-fashioned “Carnaval” — the ground reality is that here is just another opportunity for a money-making Carnival.
In theory there will be no commercial floats. The Carnival organizers insist there will be only institutional floats. But commercial organizations can always sponsor the institutions and slip into the Carnival through the back door. In any case it is not the Carnival parades that are the highlight of the carnival. It is the dances that take place every night of the Carnival from Saturday to Tuesday.
In the good old days I often came across young people rushing from the Red & Black Dance jointly organised by the Club Nacional and Club Vasco-da-Gama, straight to church for smearing their forehead with ash after dancing all night on Tuesday. Ash Wednesday which follows the last day of the Carnival marks the beginning of Lent. Lent in turn is the period of austerity before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
WHEN I first came to Goa in 1983 I heard all kinds of nasty rumors about the Carnival. That the Carnival was an outlet for drugs. I recall walking down to the residence of Nanda, who subsequently married Francisco Martins. Francisco Martins or Frankiet was considered the “King of the Carnival.” Inevitably, it was Frankiet who designed the King Momo float sponsored by the Tourism Department. Carnival actually started off with the selection of King Momo, who replaces the chief minister and rules over Goa for the four days of the Carnival.
Amongst the most notorious of King Momo was the present Member of Parliament Francisco Sardinha, who embarrassed the Congress party and Goa, recently. By rudely commenting in Parliament that it was the karma of the late chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, to die of pancreatic cancer. But Sardinha was never considered the brightest of the politicians in Goa. He fitted the role of a joker and represented King Momo ideally.
It was Francisco Sardinha who opened the door to the BJP to form the first BJP government in the State. Sardinha toppled the Congress government headed by Luizinho Falero. Sardinha got the support of the four MLA’s of the BJP who were elected for the first time in 2002. Parrikar in turn toppled the Sardinha government and took over as the first BJP chief minister of the state. Never mind that the government did not last very long but after a span of President’s Rule the BJP got a majority – then Manohar Parrikar became the chief minister of Goa in his own right.
The biggest challenge before me then in the old days when I was the editor of the OHeraldO way back in 1983, was how to keep our young employees back in office during the days of the Carnival dances. Understandably, none of them wanted to do the night shifts in office and miss out on all the fun on the streets. The highlights of the Carnival were not the parades that became more and more bureaucratic over time but the dancing in which everyone in Goa excelled.
Carnivals elsewhere around the world like Rio in Brazil are participatory events. In Goa, those watching the Carnival are separated from those participating in it by thick ropes. There are of course special seating arrangements for the VVIPs and VIPs. There used to be much resentment that the Signals Regiment of the Army which has its HQ’s next to the Collectors Poffice used to make their own seating arrangements.
Fortunately, the ropes barrier did not apply to media people who got special passes to cover the Carnival. And since I’ve never been one of those who likes to sit and watch but likes to in the thick of things — I walked down with the Carnival floats. The real attraction were the dances that were organized every night of the Carnival and next best came all the floats.
ON Saturday, the first day of the Carnival which is called Fat Saturday, was the monopoly of the Alemaos of Varca who organized a mega public dance on the Varca football grounds. There was always a heavy security of guards hanging around here. Not surprisingly all the best bands were in attendance.
I recall one Carnival at Varca where a proud Churchill Alemao introduced me to all his five children. Churchill took great pride in the fact that though he and his seven brothers were illiterate all his children were highly qualified. One of his daughters (not Valanka) was a lecturer in Sociology at Carmel College, another was a doctor. As far as I can recall the third had done management and the fourth was an architect. Churchill has only one son who was born when Churchill was evading arrest under the National Security Act.
The story goes that Churchill was hiding in one of his trawlers and he swam ashore to greet his newly-born son. The son trained to be pilot in the United States and worked for a few months with a private airline. The only one in the family who was interested in politics and football was Valanka, who contested during the just over Valentine’s Day assembly elections from Navelim on the Trinamool Congress ticket.
THE Festa de Lesques has historically been held at Sinquetim Navelim This dance has always had a tribal flavour as it is set in an area inhabited by the Velip and Guada tribal communities. Costumes used to be rustic and this was one of the most popular of the Carnival dances. It was the only dance held in South Goa and it attracted revelers from all over Salcette. I recall being the chief guest at one of the Sinquetim dances.
The other popular dance has been the Red & Black dance. Initially, Club Vasco used to have the Carnival dance on Monday and Club Nacional on Tuesday. They decided to get together and make it a combined mega- street dance. The entire stretch of the road from the Old Secretariat along the road adjacent to Club Nacional used to be blocked. The Red & Black which was organized by the presidents of the two clubs, attracted the bold and the beautiful, rich and powerful, including Vijay Mallya who is now in custody in the UK. After all Kingfisher owned by Vijay Mallya used to be the main sponsor.
For most of the 80s and 90s Goa celebrated the Carnival and encouraged commercial floats. One of the pioneers of business was the late Gajanand Shirodkar, founder of the Real Group of companies, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. The Real Group was the main distributor for Kingfisher. Another enthusiastic Carnival participant was Pascoal Menezes, the founder of the Cosme Mathias Menezes (CMM) Group. Pascoal not only sponsored but actively participated in the Old Spice float. As he once recounted to me, one Carnival he dressed up as a very handsome lady.
Very particular about detailing, Pascoal even imported padded bras from Japan. The logic was that Japanese women being small-breasted made the best-padded bras. As it happened a close friend of Pacoal at the Carnival that year was so smitten by the “handsome lady” that he chased Pascoal all the way to his residence at Altinho! On other occasions as the years caught up with Pascoal and his wife they used to doll up as a very aged couple and sit at the riverside parapet.
LOVE OF CARNAVAL
THERE was so much love for the Carnaval in town that nothing could stop its celebration. I recall that during the Konkani language agitation, Churchill Alemao gave a call for the boycott of the Carnaval. The Travel & Tourism Association headed by Babu Keni of the Mandovi Hotel had a meeting and it was decided to defy Churchill’s ban. A small group of people including Babu and Francisco Martins marched right up to the Campal promenade. Accompanying Babu was his newly married wife and son. This also marked the beginning of the antique car rally which is now one of the exciting highlights of current Carnival.
In the countries of the West they are talking about revenge travel and revenge entertainment. The citizens of several European countries are so tired of Covid-19 bans and lockdowns that they are desperate to blow away pent up ire and steam. This is true of India as well, particularly Mumbai. So a huge crowd of tourists is expected this Carnival with Parmod Sawant rolling out a red carpet by scrapping the RT-CPR certificate for entry into Goa. I don’t know too much about modern-day Carnival but the food at Samba Square will surely tickle your taste buds. For this is being organized by none other than the “King of Hospitality” Vincent Ramos, who is the ever generous Area Director of the Taj Group of Hotels.
Reportedly, he has come up with a new expression – foodpreneurs, passionate food creators who will preside over some 40 to 50 stalls at the renovated Miramar Beach walkway which will be jazzed up with decorations and there will also be pop-up vans. So enjoy your last weekend of fun before the 40 days of fasting, with no fish or fowl, and no alcohol and keep your distance from your sweetheart.