Brazil worships Brahma!!

Sao Paulo Travel Blog

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Although I love traveling and enjoy seeing new places I would put people above places any day. I believe it’s people who make the place and never the other way round. People with positive energy and spirit have the ability to turn even the most uninteresting places into amazing experiences. Ergo my greatest addiction is “people”.


Meeting new people and getting to understand better the ones I already know gives me an unmatched high. Consequently, my blogs tend to be more about people I meet and share experiences with than about places. It’s about people who open their homes and hearts to strangers, people whose first instinct is trust and not suspicion, people who genuinely go out of their way to make your journey more pleasant without expecting anything in return. I’m talking in general about people in Latin America and Brazilians in particular.


Brazilians world over are know to be warm and friendly but you won’t realize the true meaning of this until you actually experience it. The reason is simple; the definition of the words warm and friendly differs from one country to another and from one city to another within the same country. We in India pride ourselves for following the Sanskrit mantra - “Atithi Devo Bhavah” (A guest is God and should be treated as such) but would do well to take a leaf or two out of a Brazilians’ book.


After my unpleasant experience on the Mumbai - Newark flight I wondered what lie in store for me on the 10 hr flight from Newark to Sao Paulo. Thankfully the flight was on time and as I approached my allotted seat I noticed that a young lady was already sitting there. I checked my boarding pass and then checked with her. She apologized for being in the wrong seat and moved to the window seat. I prefer aisle seats as they make me feel less claustrophobic and allow me the luxury of getting in and out of my seat without disturbing the co-passengers in my row.


At last I was on my way to Sao Paulo and my excitement was visible. After exchanging pleasantries I asked the young lady if she was visiting Sao Paulo or living there. She said she was a Brazilian living in the US and returning home for a holiday.


There is something about talking to a complete stranger that makes us drop our guard and talk effortlessly and openly. It always amazes me how easily people can share their life history with complete strangers. I suppose its knowing that the stranger has no vested interest in your life and will therefore have a more objective view about things. This together with the fact that the chances of meeting that person again are so slim that you are inclined to be more free about sharing your personal details.


Despite being a night flight we chatted away most of the 10 hours and I learnt more about one of the sweetest relationships in life…that of a mother and a daughter. She too got to know a bit about my country and a lot about my life. By the time the flight landed we knew just about everything that had happened in our lives! When she learnt that I was traveling to Brasilia as well she invited me to visit her small town a few hours from Brasilia. She said her daughter too would be joining her in a few days time and it would be nice to host me in her little town. I promised her I would try my best to make it even as we bid good bye at Sao Paulo airport!


I was in Brazil at last and my first reaction at the airport was…. “this is so much like any big city in India and yet so different”. I love arrival lounges at airports…I consider them to be the best place if you want to see happy smiley faces receiving their loved ones. Thankfully in Brazil you don’t have to go that far. The country seemed to be full of happy smiley faces and despite having read about it I could never have imagined the infectious nature of these smiley faces!


The exhaustion of the long flight and being annoyed by the delays seemed to be far away and almost forgotten. I could feel a new spirit and zest in me to go out and explore the city! I landed on a weekend and the traffic was merciful. My hotel was close to Avenida Paulista which is one of the most important avenues in Sao Paulo and always buzzing with acitivity.


Remember your first day at school? Hmmn maybe not but I’m sure you will remember the first day at school of a loved one when he or she came home excited after learning the first lessons. I could feel a similar kind of excitement when I entered my room after checking into my hotel. I had already learnt my first lessons in Brazil.


Tools of communication: The two important tools of communication are also the easiest - your thumb and your smile.


In addition to the global meaning of “ok” or “good” a Thumb up in Brazil has other uses too. It is also used to communicate with taxi drivers sitting inside. When you do a Thumb up to the taxi driver it means you are asking him if he is ready to take you in his vehicle. A return thumb up sign means “Yes” and a thumb down means “sorry”.


The best use or misuse of the thumb rule is often demonstrated by drivers on busy roads. You can cut across lanes, overtake cars or do almost anything provided you just flash a thumb up to the other driver. The other guy might be fuming inside but the moment he sees the thumb up he relents! Of course, lady drivers can use the “flash smile” signal as well :)


For a tourist the smile tool is indispensable especially if you can’t speak Portuguese. If you understand something - smile and if you don’t understand something - smile wider! Don’t worry people do take the trouble to understand what you want and are always willing to help you no matter how busy they are.


Rules of communication: The two important rules of communication are again the easiest.


Within a few minutes you will observe that “bom dia” or “todo bem” are the most common words to start a conversation. The first expression means “Good Day” and the second stands for “All fine?”


The importance of a hug is no where more understood and appreciated than in Brazil. It is a simple but powerful way to greet someone. A hug automatically evokes as sense of companionship and comradery killing in the process even the remotest hint of hostility. A hug can start off even the most uncomfortable of conversations with ease.




If you are an Indian like me you will be pleasantly surprised to know that despite being a predominantly Christian nation a majority of the people in Brazil worship Brahma, the Indian God of creation. Brahma brings peace, happiness and contentment to millions even in Brazil. Of course, the only difference being the fact that it is worshipped in Brazil as one of the top selling beers!! See some of their ads below and you will know why it is worshipped so much J


The other expression you are certainly going to hear once you mention you are from India is “Caminho das Indias” (literally translated into English as India’s Way).


It’s a Brazilian Emmy award winning television soap opera produced by Rede Globo and first broadcast between Jan 19 and Sep 11, 2009. It ranked within the top of the most watched shows in the Brazilian television. Caminho das Índias storylines examine beliefs and values that differentiate the Eastern and Western world, the telenovela brings to the screen a story of contrasts. In the central plot, a forbidden love between two Indians of very different origins, Maya and Bahuan.

The telenovela popularized India in Brazil. The Indian-inspired bijoux used by Maya are now available everywhere, books about India started to pop up on the best-selling list, the number of travels to India by Brazilians tourists increased dramatically and restaurants and even nightclubs with Indian themes started to open.

[All info on Caminho das Indias is courtesy wikipedia]

After checking into my hotel the next task was to call my local couchsurfing (CS) contact and local CS ambassador for Sao Paulo - Vanessa.


My next post will be about the live wire, hyper-active and generous Vanessa and the three days I spent in Sao Paulo.

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photo by: joesu