The Olympics are almost upon us, and yet the news here has been rife with how worrying the overall situation in Rio still seems to be. There are pictures of non-functional toilets, and horrifyingly, a bloated corpse in water that will be used to sail. Fears of the Zika virus are topmost.
Brazil has always been a fascinating place. I would, many years ago, come across articles in the NY Times' Travel section that presented glimpses of its diversity and joie de vivre; I was particularly entranced by the music and the vast unknown of the Amazon. The Brazilian friends I made at University were a class apart in the art of knowing how to enjoy life and gave me a real appreciation for the beauty of Portuguese, especially when sung. A few years later I planned to travel to Rio. Alas, for some unknown reasons, I ran into visa problems and never made it.
That failed trip remains in my memories almost like a phantom limb. And somehow I am unperturbed by the persistent 'negative' image of the country that has emerged from the news here; indeed the news anywhere seems to delight in the seamier side of anything and anyplace. When I finally visit, it will be the fulfilling of a long-held dream. More so since I don't care particularly about the Zika virus, it will not faze me to see polluted water bodies, and as for crime, I will exercise common sense in avoiding obviously unsafe parts of town.
Also, in my eyes, in some ways Brazil and India seem like shadow sisters. Vast ethnic diversity, a history of colonialism and exploitation, untold natural resources, rich musical heritage and an intensely exciting food scene are just some of the similarities. But also present is the struggle to 'keep up' with the times. Technology and urbanization are galloping along and the upper classes, while slim in number, have risen to enjoy the modern life and leave behind the unseen under-privileged to simmer in long-smoldering hostility.
As I watch the opening ceremony on television, I'll be rooting for Brazil.