Ever since my 1957 visit to that fabulous city by a KLM flight from New Delhi via Dakar in West Africa, I’ve always treasured my fortnight’s sojourn in Brazil, with the high points being Rio and São Paulo.
It was not all unbridled pleasure all the time, since I had to practice hard every day at the piano to justify my participation in the First International Music Festival ever to be held in South America as India’s sole representative.
Not surprisingly, I have avidly read all the sports press and social media relating to the forthcoming Summer Olympics, particularly as they pertain to the ups and downs in Brazil’s perceived readiness or otherwise to be a credible host country for the world event. I am at odds with the experts on the media who even to this very day and at this very hour are spouting Jeremiads ad nauseam as to that country’s ability “to pull it off.”
We shall see who is right very shortly.
I, for one, have no qualms on that score, as I have learnt at first hand the magical way that its citizens – amateurs and professionals alike – can perform the most difficult tasks with aplomb and are imbued with that intangible ‘coming-from-behind’ prowess that befuddles and bemuses most visitors. The sights and sounds that await one in Rio’s winter together make up for any real or imagined shortcomings in the preparedness of a native Carioca.
Indeed I wrote a short uplifting piano piece at that time which you can hear right now in an electronic version: Carioca is the first of Five World Travel Sketches that I was inspired to compose during the 1950’s and 1960’s while visiting exhilarating spots around Asia, Europe, America and Down Under during my wanderlust years. You are welcome to check them out by clicking on the Sketches hotlink above.
Amidst the opening days of the competition, I met two notable people from outside the tight music circle that helped make a difference during my stay: One was, Dmitri Ismailovitch, a Ukrainian painter and portraitist of note; the other Minoo Masani, the Indian ambassador to Brazil, who commissioned the former gentleman in 1948 to paint an oil portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.Mr. Ismailovitch himself invited me one ‘free’ morning – that is when I wasn’t glued to the keyboard – to his bright and airy artist studio overlooking the Copacabana, and after exchanging some pleasantries sat me down just so, picked up the tools of his trade and with lightning deft strokes did a black-and-white sketch of me that I couldn’t help but admire. He presented it to me the day before I flew to Buenos Aires to visit old college friends from my university days as a student in London.
Next, I was invited to the Indian embassy for a get-together with Mr. Masani whom I’d never met before, but whom I’d admired for his sterling role in Indian politics back home. Without the circumstance of his commissioning ‘my’ painter, I wouldn’t have been able to make that fortuitous connection thousand of miles away from my homeland.
Before we go, you’ll get to know my painter better by reading this short biography of him:
Painter and portraitist, Dimitri studied 1918-19 at the School of Fine Arts of Ukraine. He arrived in Brazil in 1927, after short periods of time spent in Athens, London and the United States respectively. He won a silver medal at the National Salon of Fine Arts, and another in the Paulista Salon of Fine Arts. He became famous as a portraitist, but also dedicated himself to landscape and still life. In 1964, Antonio Bento wrote of him: “There is no doubt that his technique is also the most solid; it follows that his oil paintings, made over thirty years ago, are now as well preserved as when they were painted, I believe that this is one of the highest praise that can be made to the painter, who owns a metier of the most vigorous, at a time when so many modern painters ignore almost entirely the superb craftsmanship of the old masters.”
Wikipedia, My Diaries, “The Cable” Magazine, July 1960 (Calcutta)
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