In the ‘City of God’

D 379 Day (Sunday April 2)
Location: Bras de Pina, Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Latin America.

Today, Sulakshana Varhadkar ma’am invited me for lunch. She was in touch from last one week and I could not manage. So, today, it was top on agenda.

I am staying in a Santa Cecilia Church in Rio de Janeiro with Father Thomas and two other Fathers including Father Joseph who are from Kerala state of India. I am youngest member in the family so they all are taking care of me.
Morning, I went for Sunday prayer with Father Thomas. Then we had brunch here. Then i had calls from India. I was very late to go to Sulakshana maam. It was late afternoon and I was thinking whether to go or not. She stays far away from my place which exact in opposite part of city. Travel app said travel time would be 1 hour 50 minutes if one gets back to back buses. On Sunday, if one miss one bus then travel time would be 2.30 hours and more. So odd four and a half hour in travel only.
I do not want to upset Sulakshana. She texted me that she had prepared Indian food for me. Eventually, I decided to break prime rule of journey: after 3 pm start walking toward house. By 5 pm be in the safe place. I started travelling by 2.30 pm. I know that it would land me in difficulty.
I had noted all names and numbers of trains and buses and started walking. I missed the bus. I realised I am going wrong. But still have to go. Finally, after changing three buses and one metro train, I reached her house in evening.

I had spoiled her whole Sunday but she was kind to understand me. She showed me area around her house. She is privileged to have an apartment on 29 floor in prime area in between the beach and a lake. On another side is mountains of national park.
While discussing, she told me that she had started her career as journalist in Mumbai. So, we had a lot in common to talk. We started our lunch (at 5pm) while leisurely talking about life in Mumbai, China and Japan and common journalist friends like Umesh Kymavat, Aparna Velankar, Rashmi Puranik, Abhijit Mulye and others.

One and half hour passed just like that. I put on my jacket just to indicate that it’s time to leave. Ma’am was kind come to walk with me till bus stop. Again I missed the bus while crossing the road.

Let me tell you about situation Rio de Janeior. It is just like Mumbai in late 80s and early 90s and gang war, drugs mafia and encounters. On the day of my arrival, there was sounds of firing. Father told me there was gun fight. Again another day, in gun fight, two policemen dead and then two people including a school going girl was killed.

For more info please watch a movie ‘City of God’ (Cidade de Deus – ( ) directed by Katia Lund, based on real events of growth of organised crime in the cidade de Deus part of Rio. One friend had recommended this movie to me three years ago. I watched half and stopped because of too much of violence.

It was already dark. I was trying to be neutral. I got bus for metro station. There were so many flyover going in different directions so I was confused how to know when the metro station had come. Driver shouted loudly looking at me in mirror so I got down. But I could not see the metro station because stop was far away.

One passenger said, ‘metro? Metro?’ I nodded me head and he asked me to follow him. There was no one on the road to ask for direction. So I had only option to follow that man. I kept safe distance and was walking behind him. Eventually, I reached to subway.

After a long ride in metro, I reached Central station from where I have to take another bus. There was a girl and volunteered to help me but she did not know English and I don’t know Portuguese. I had translator app in mobile but Father had instructed clearly not to take out mobile in public place. The girl was taller than me (When I had hugged her while leaving, I realised that I was reached to her neck only). She was fair with short and curly brown hair.

She requested police for direction. Police gave us wrong direction. The girl came with me till bus stop as directed by police. She told me her name was Joice. I know 100 % it’s not right bus stop.
Everyone was saying that was right bus stop.They were asking me to walk further to a deserted bus stop. I did not listen to anyone by going there is like inviting robbers.
It was perfect scene of horror movie – dim and dull light, presence of smoke come out from road side barbeques, deserted roads, empty buses and speedy cars. Worst thing was that I could not tell Joice that it’s wrong place. She did not know English. I had translation app in mobile but Father told me not to open your mobile on the road.

Joice Bastos (L) pic by Jeanny Sants Facebook

Joice Bastos (L) pic by Jeanny Sants Facebook

There was no police and no one who could speak English. My mobile has no calling.
I am not afraid of being robbed. Only problem is I have small money and want to make best of it.
It went on like this for half hour. We were asking different people and they were giving different directions.  I was worried for Joice. Her parents must be waiting for her. Besides, I was jeopardizing her safety by asking her to wait.
At last, we asked a person at petrol station. He guided right. Then Joice nodded with her hands and asked me to follow her. I was afraid that she may rob me taking to some isolated place. I could see that she was strong enough and can punch me down in one minute. Still I decided to walk with her throw narrow and deserted gullies in dark.
After walking for odd 8/10 minutes, she brought me on the right road. I recollect the stop. Then we were waiting for bus. It was more than 40 minutes bus no bus. I was feeling sad Joice. She was waiting for me.
She had a photo of boy on mobile screen. She said he is amigo (a friend). After ten minutes I saw same guy was waiting at same bus stop. They were surprised to see each other. Her friend got his mobile and we started conversation on Google translation.
The bus was testing my patience. At last I got my bus. I gave a tight hug to Joice and to her friend and boarded the bus for my destination.



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