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When a song becomes a tourist stop

india Updated: Jun 18, 2014 13:40 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
world cup

This is the story of a song which became a landmark. A short walk from the General Osorio metro station and not far from the Ipanema beach at a corner on Rua Vinicius de Moraes is the restaurant Garota de Ipanema. Once upon a time it used to be called Veloso and was just another bar-cafe.

That was when it just used to be a meeting point for Bossa Nova musicians. “Here Tom (Antonio Carlos) Jobim and Vinicius de Moares were inspired to compose the song Garote de Ipanema,” it is written in Portuguese and English on dark blue oval dishes that are pinned on the walls inside and outside.

Next to the restaurant is a shop of the same name selling curios, souvenirs and, of course, Brazil football team shirts.

Inside the no-smoking eatery are pictures of the singers and composers shrouded in a cloud of cigarette smoke that look very 1960ish. Framed photographs of the brunette Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto (now Helô Pinheiro), then 19 and the singers’ muse, taken over the years too are part of the decor.

In one she is on a boat wearing a smile as wide as her brimmed hat, in another she is on a magazine cover looking older and on a bike. Over the years, Pinheiro has become as much a celebrity as the song known to the English speaking world as ‘The girl from Ipanema.’

Newspaper articles about the girl and the restaurant too are framed in the restaurant that has a wooden facade with menu cards in English and Portuguese pinned outside possibly for the crowd — there is one more often than not — to make up its mind as it awaits its turn.

“It will take around 20 minutes,” we are told after giving our names in a mix that had people from Japan, Argentina and two cricket-loving Australians from Melbourne one of them in a yellow Cricket Australia shirt. “I don’t have a Socceroos’ shirt,” he said after a short paragraph in praise of the Indian Premier League.

The place has the buzz of eateries that dot Barcelona’s Barri Gotic area or Mumbai’s Cafe Leopold. The conversation’s loud, in multiple languages, and fuelled by beer and caiprinha which even 14-year-olds are offered.

Waiters in red waist jackets with a Garota crest and blue trousers flit between the tables as easily as Neymar and Messi go past defenders. Those clearing the tables often do so with a clatter wearing blue jeans and Holland orange.

“The place now has 130 covers and was renamed in 1975,” said our waiter Fabio. By then the song had become an international hit. According to reports on the internet, it is the most recorded pop song after the Beatles’ Yesterday.

A tenderloin steak costs and Picanha (which has meat, French Fries, rice and manioc flour) $56 (approximately Rs 1680), large pizzas come for R$25 (Rs 780) but business in the time of the World Cup definitely seems good.