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The Carnival that never was

When in Goa, we try to avoid being in Panjim during Carnival. It is noisy. I can’t even begin to describe the decibel levels that accompany the floats. This year, Mr. R is away so I chose to stay at home with M and my MIL. With our verandah sealed off for restoration, M is confined indoors and had to watch the beginning of the parade through the safety grills.

And the beginning is all that he got to see.

At 3.30 pm the parade began its route along the Mandovi.The crowd this year was thinner than previous years. Perhaps the dilly-dallying of the Carnival announcement (because of the election code of conduct) made people rethink their travel plans. There were plenty of foreigners, but domestic tourists were smaller in number than usual.

At noon, workers were still putting up a large cloth barrier on the road divider so that the audience could restrict themselves to one half of the road while the other was open to traffic. That almost always never succeeds, though, as the cloth barrier falls with the sheer weight of people trying to squeeze through to the other side.

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So the parade began with the usual Goan themed float. This time Sao Joao led the stream of trucks followed by some dancers and a truck with a gang of boys and massive speakers. At this point, our window panes were shimmying along to the music and M was already holding his ears, so the doors were shut and while the panes continued to dance, we distracted ourselves with trains and cake (not necessarily in that order).

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Before we knew it, there was silence. The music had stopped. The floats were still. And people were walking away.

What was going on?

In the next ten minutes, floats began reversing and the ones that had already gone on before, doubled back.  Helicopters buzzed about and ambulances rushed out of Panjim.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, I was posting photos of the first bit of the parade when I read a tweet about a school bus plunging into a river in Aldona possibly killing over 15 school children. I didn’t immediately connect the two events but in a few minutes, as the crowd rapidly thinned and floats made their way home quietly, it was evident that Carnival wasn’t happening.

It is only right that in the event of so many deaths, a ‘traditional’ celebration like carnival should be cancelled. News is still filtering in about navy divers coming in to help and how the driver and cleaner jumped out of the bus and fled (while the brakes failed).

It is a tragedy that children continue to die in our country because of possible negligence (in this case, perhaps) or of hunger. Can you imagine 24% of our children going hungry every day? There’s more: 48% of Indian children are stunted.  And only about 7% of Indian children receive a “minimum acceptable diet”.

A new report by Save the Children highlights this completely avoidable tragedy. The world has enough food for everyone. Read it here.

Starve the politicians. Feed our children.

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