It was not just the weird-looking contraption that caught my fleeting attention. It was also what was written on it.
“Ja Houve de Balao, Aviao, Barco, Carro, Moto e Bicicleta … Maz de skate e a 1 vez!!!” I knew a little Portuguese, thanks to 2 weeks in Brazil, and I kind of figured out the translation. It went something like, “There has been balloon, plane, boat, car, motorcycle and bicycle. But first time on a skateboard”
I sat in the arrivals section of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, sipping a lukewarm sugary drink that the coffee shop outside had labeled ‘Capuccino’. I didn’t care. I just wanted to wake up after a long bus-trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, and a flight from Bangkok to Kolkata. Anything with Caffeine would do at this hour. Which was 2 AM in Kolkata.
Across me, in a corner of the arrival section, a balding yet healthy-looking man, had set down on the floor. He was unpacking a large carton which was labeled ‘sam song’ – the infamous Thai alcohol. Clearly, he had flown in from Bangkok with me. From the carton, he took out a weird mix of things. First was a skateboard. Well, not exactly ‘a’ skateboard, but a few pieces of the skateboard, which he started assembling. Ok, it was a customised board, I could tell. And from the carton, he pulled out 2 more units, which looked like containers. One was a square in shape, and the other was a pyramid. He attached them to the front and the back respectively.
That’s when I knew that I was seeing a Genius at work here.
Marcelo Silva the Brazilian
“Tudo Bem?”, I came and stood across Marcelo as he was still bolting his containers onto the skateboard. I had figured out he was Brazilian. I didn’t need to know how to Portuguese to figure out his nationality. He had made it easy by laying a Brazilian flag on the floor of the Kolkata airport, from where he was slowly unpacking and sorting his pile of stuff.
“Si. Obrigado. Fala Portugues?”,(Yes. Thank you. You speak Portuguese?). He looked clearly surprised that he was hearing Portuguese in India.
“Just a little bit”, I continued in English. I knew the extent of my Portuguese.
I asked him where he was from. He was from Rio. And then I asked him where in Rio. He looked up, clearly confused that I knew Rio well. I told him I had been to Rio already for the carnival. His eyes went as wide as the sugarloaf mountains of Rio.
“Copacabana! Copacabana, my friend!”. Well, we had become friends now.
Le Tour Du Monde en Skate. To Russia
I started asking him about his trip. And from that point on, my mouth was agape. This man had left home in 2009! That was 8 years ago! And he has been skating around the world since then, and sharing updates of it on Brazilian channels. First in the Americas, then in Africa. And now, in Asia, where he was skating around Myanmar for the last 1 or 2 months, before taking a flight from Bangkok to Kolkata. The below video will give you a glimpse of what this crazy guy has been up to.
“And after Kolkata? What is your plan?”
“Kolkata to Gaya and Patna. I think it will take me about a month. And hopefully, by next month, I should be in Nepal. After Nepal, I have to figure out how to get to Russia for the world cup in June. I don’t think I can go through Pakistan and Afghanistan. I will find a way to get to Kazakhstan around March or April, since I don’t need a visa there”, he giggled.
In an age where people take a quick flight to get to Kazakhstan or Russia, he was planning to get there in the next 4 to 6 months, by skating all the way. And what was in Russia?
“The world cup, my friend. I am Brazilian, how can I miss it?!”, he had that mischievous Brazilian smile which I knew way too well. Marcelo was not joking. He was indeed going to Russia.
Welcome to India, Marcelo!
“Listen, Abhi. My friend, I need your help. Can you teach me some quick things to say in Indian, for every time I meet some on the road?”
My turn to talk now. I had to explain to Marcelo that there was no language called ‘Indian’. We were in Kolkata now, where people spoke Bengali. Even I didn’t know it. I told him that he can either talk in one of the 2 official languages: Hindi or English. I thought him a few phrases in Hindi, like Dhanyawaad (thank you).
“People here speak English?!!”, he looked at me incredulously. I nodded and told him it was one of our official languages. He wasn’t convinced and turned to the guy from the coffee shop who had been curiously watching both of us for the last 1 hour. “Really? You speak English?”
“Little, little”, the guy at the coffee shop giggled.
I told Marcelo that he could get by with some slow English in most parts of the country. And then, gave him a few tips about road safety in India. Especially, the part of skating in the highways of Bengal. And I did warn him: the Bengal highways are quite risky and dangerous. Trust me, I know.
The parting shots
We had to part ways now. Marcelo had booked himself at the Gala Time hostel near Patuli, and I told him I will help him to get there with directions. And I was headed to Howrah junction, for a train connection to Guwahati in Assam. We both knew we were travellers and our paths had crossed just momentarily.
“You know, I made this flag of India myself.”, Marcelo exclaimed. And followed it up with another exclamation. “Yessss. I still cant believe I am in India. So happy, my friend!” He had a smile from cheek to cheek, and it was genuine.
“Marcelo, this is India, my friend. That flag is too small. You need a picture with a bigger flag”, I smiled, because I had to let him know that we Indians can bring that mischievous smile too. And then took out the massive India flag which I had in my own backpack. (I had kept one for my upcoming K2K2K motorcycle trip)
“This is sooo big! We should take a picture with both India and Brazilian flag together”. And then he removed all the stuff from his container, to take out a big Brazilian flag which he had already packed inside. And then, he assembled the 2 flags on 2 airport trolleys.
This man was just 3 hours in India, and he had already learnt the Indian Jugaad!
This post is part of my Travel Inspirations. Click here to check out other amazing travel inspirations for you.
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