After almost 24 weary hours of travelling non-stop and all the several stories in negative light about the World Cup preparations by Brazil in the lead-up, I was expecting to be forgiven by my wife for being a tad skeptical as we disembarked at the jam-packed Sao Paulo Guarulhos terminal. The sight was of a colourful mix of crowds of all countries and races descending into the immigration hall obviously way too small to handle the unloading of several 300+ seater planes arriving every few minutes on the eve of the World Cup.
Still, rather than claustrophobia, there seemed to be more a feeling of excited anticipation amongst everyone, as pleasantries were exchanged among Aussies, Croats, English, Americans, Bosnians, Malaysians, Qataris et al, even as the queue lasted almost two hours - virtually double of what I had very wrongly anticipated. However, the immigration lady eagerly beckoned us forward at our turn and welcomingly stamped our passports with a smile almost becoming of the perfect Indian host welcoming an honoured guest, and better was to come as the customs officer was probably trumping even the Air India ’Maharaja’ mascot with his own loud, smiling “Welcomes!”, and all with a gracious bow to boot.
Of course, a lot could have been better at the airport, considering Sao Paulo is virtually one of the busiest airports in the southern hemisphere, and is also the main gateway for international fans coming to Brazil for this World Cup. Interiors & facilities wise, I almost felt a little proud at the much improved state of most of our Indian airports. But Guarulhos was still very functional, and the only non-functional things were probably the rows & rows of ATM machines.
So with the best part next of finally collecting my match tickets done at another queue outside the airport, one Senor L.A. was going to transfer us from the airport to the accommodation, in what ended up being our very own Indian connection Mahindra-derived Logan. Some big Muitos Obrigados (‘Thank you’ in Brazilian-Portuguese; the first and probably most important phrase I have picked up) were due to Senor L.A., as he not only waited patiently at the airport as I negotiated the immigration and ticket-collection lines, but also drove the Logan like it had probably never been driven nor designed to be driven (and via the aptly named and often typically jammed Ayrton Senna Expressway), but also got us to our destination in double-quick time by Sao Paulo road standards.
And how, when not at full-speed? Simply by often gliding along the empty emergency lane! If caught, I’m sure he would have conjured up a reasonable excuse about his hapless non-local-communicado passengers (us) being in an emergency, or something of that sort I thought. But nothing happened, as I presume the police authorities might have been busy elsewhere, what with the entire extended FIFA family in town on the tournament’s eve. And all this manoeuvring Senor LA did while having his mobile, water and snack at hand to use as he so desired, whenever the speed came down to fast from super-fast.
To think we complain of drivers back home in India. Atleast they don’t leave back-seat passengers feeling nauseated with the roller-coaster despite worse roads. Unfortunately or fortunately I was unable to distract him much more often from his driving, as he didn’t speak English, while I didn’t Portuguese. Still I did figure out from him that he’s a Corinthians supporter happy to have the brand new World Cup Arena for his thus far homeless club, that the Subway Metro strike will probably not be in effect as threatened on Thursay, and that there’s no chance Neymar is an injury doubt for the World Cup opener against Croatia.Published 12 Jun 2014, 11:52 IST