23 Feb 2020  |   03:49am IST



Sujay Gupta

If the Carnival of today almost works on remote, where event teams and managers and planners take over like they would plan any wedding or a conference, in the good old days (g.o.d) (and here we are referring to the g.o.d days of this author in 2004-05), it was a tad different. Float gurus like Fankit Martins and others spoke to their teams, decided on their theme, worked on their costumes and other material needed, that in turn spurring hectic activity down the line, among many talents. If it took a village to raise a kid, it took a good part of the town to get a float ready for the carnival.

And then there were others who were always the stars of the show, The people of Panjim (and in every village) where traditional carnivals were held and observed . We had one large group which in turn had some sub groups and all such mini communities overlapped which carried out an important task, meet before the carnival and have night long chat sessions on virtually everyone and everything in town and the world.  While these intellectual discourses has very little bearing or influence in the pre-carnival celebration  planning,  the spirit of joie de vivre, the Carnival spirit, does act as a catalyst for work-life to slow down, leaving time for languid afternoon conversations- on the weekend, stretching in to the wee hours of the evening.

The venue for these institutional chat- a- thons were those institutions best linked with the carnival in Panjim- Clube Vasco Da Gama,  next to the Garcia de Orta and Clube Nacional, the 104 year old club which , barring an accident related hiatus for three years from September 14 2014 (after the St Anthony dance in June) to July 13, 2017, has rocked to glory. The new avatar looks chic with none of its old world touches gone. It re-opened with a bang with nostalgia, in every tone and tune.  There was vintage Braz Gonsalves on the saxophone, his daughter Sharon and her husband Daryll and son Jarydd, there was Carlos Menezes and his group and other singers. And what a party it was with most of the old timers back. The Clube’s resurrection was theirs too.

In 2004, when our story of today is set, our motley crew consisted of the late Bernadine Da Costa of SpeedBird Travels better known as our beloved Dinito, Zito De  Gouveia Pinto, the owner of an infectious laughter and a mischievous mind, an erstwhile member of the travel trade, whose imagination and mirth soared wide, regaling us with anecdotes. They seemed fresh to me but even to those veterans in the group who had heard tales of people in Panjim and Goa, Zito always came up with a new twist which made the story fresh again. ( He could have been a journalist I tell you).  Then of course the Alvares brothers Vasco and Ernesto, who ran the food and beverages enterprise at the Clube then, whose father was one of the pillars of the Panjim Carnival. And while they cooked the best food in town, they reserved perhaps the best for the Carnival, where carne (meat) was prepared and consumed as if it was going out of fashion. Well, it was in a sense with lent to follow.

Vasquito’s pork chops falling off the bone and his steaks with pepper sauce were had for lunch or dinner followed by a quick trip to Clube Nacional, where choris pao and urrack or feni would be waiting in the evening.

On Carnival day, another cast of characters were regular fixtures- the Gomes brothers Shanon and Sylvester and their plusses. Ahem! These boys were ringmasters on our turf on the Carnival route right in front of the Top Gear pub on Dayanand Bandodkar Marg, whose existence we hardly noticed through the year, but became the most critical landmark during float watching. We had stools and chairs and placed them strategically outside top gear with many of us designated to dive in and out of the pub with refills. (Alas with new conditions and rules, that didn’t quite happen now with the fervor of yesteryears)

And then the festivities moved to the lane adjoining Garcia de Orta and the jardin itself lined with stalls, more food and wine. That spirit still exists, where you meet people you haven’t for a year or more, sing and dance with friends and strangers and do not have to ever decide where to party on those days. The party is all over you.

At the very least Panjim and Goa retains that and even as some politicians try and spoil the party,  the great wall of  spirit of its people, triumphs each year.

Viva Carnival


Idhar Udhar