Ashok brought with him his four best friends from throughout his life with friendships spanned over 40 years. All five gentlemen were in their seventies, with the oldest 78 years young, and ready for their moment in feathers on top of the float and threw themselves wholeheartedly into the preparation.
First up was a private samba lesson to get some basic moves and performance tips for the big night. After some initial confusion due to the difference in styles between traditional Indian dancing and samba they soon found their rhythm and hips were swinging and feet were tapping.
Next up the group got to do a costume fitting as they saw their outfits for the first time. Having already been briefed during online meetings before they arrived in Rio, they came knowledgeable about their chosen samba school Mangueira, its history and culture and all about the theme and music for this year’s parade.
However, nothing can prepare you for seeing the costumes in reality for the first time and they were completely blown away by the amazing designs. From long flowing purple and black robes through to gladiator chest pieces and shields covered in rhinestones. To finish the look, they had a gladiator-style headdress with an enormous purple and black feathered Mohawk on top. They were blown away by the costumes and excited for the big night.
On the first night of the parades, they were picked and taken by their Experience Carnival host to go and watch the show from a private seated area within the Camarote. There they got to see for the first time what they would be doing the next day and excitement levels were rising. They were all very glad to have their seating area allowing them to have a rest in between dancing to the samba, they loved the parades so much that they stayed all night and only left as the last samba school finished at 6:00.
The next day it was their turn to parade in the Rio carnival, representing their school Mangueira. They arrived at the staging area, dressed in their full gladiator costume, made up with purple glitter and rhinestones and singing the samba, with a couple of Indian twists. They were instantly welcomed and looked after by the amazing team from Mangueira who loved their new performers from across the world.
It was then time to for them head up onto the float and to their positions at the top, there was a few hairy moments as they climbed slowly up the wobbly ladders over 8 meters but soon they were in position and ready to head out to the screaming crowds of over 90,000 spectators waiting for them.
And they did not disappoint, they danced, sang and blew kisses to the crowds for over 40 minutes as they headed down the Avenida, full of energy and loving every moment!
On asking Ashok what the experience meant to him, he replied, “this has been the most unbelievable and life-affirming experience and to get to do this with my lifelong friends is beyond special. People thought we were mad coming to dance in feathers on top of a float at our age but we showed them that you are never too old to love life and I hope to be back again for my 80th”