11 Come September - Celine D'souza

posted Sep 6, 2018, 10:34 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 10:34 AM ]
Come early September, and the metropolitan city of Mumbai comes alive with all roads leading to Mount Mary's Basilica, Bandra. And why not? After all, each one wants to wish our dearly beloved Mother Mary, the mother of all mothers, a very happy birthday like we do our own mother. Never mind that there is no mention of the exact date of her birth in the Bible; and never mind the fact that this festival has now turned boisterous and rowdy, much to the annoyance of the residents of Bandra.

But nothing, not rain, sunshine, mist, fog can curb the festive fervour every year. One marvels at the never decreasing faith, trust and love of Mumbaikars sprawled all over the suburbs and SoBo. Yes, all are there on bended knees, praying their hearts out, crying for help in need. Such faith — as the Bible says, 'You believe because you have seen; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.' Thronging the basilica in blind faith are crowds of diverse castes, creeds and religions, young and aged, princes and paupers.

The basilica itself is a beauty to behold during the entire fortnight. Being a seasoned Bandraite, I've seen it, in and out of feast, a privilege for me which I cherish and guard close to my heart. The stone walls are scrubbed, rubbed and bathed to strut their brilliance when the sun lights up the edifice, and the shadows of the illuminated steeples crowned with crosses tap dance on the moonlit waters of the Arabian sea. At the crack of dawn, the melodious sound of the two shrine bells (rung only on feast days) can be heard far above the buzz of the cicadas and other winged insects infesting the Bandstand seaface resonate over the chimes of other church bells in the vicinity. Inside the church, an amazing grace can be experienced when one looks at our Mother, dressed in her golden robe, standing tall on the main altar bearing the words: ALL GENERATIONS SHALL CALL ME BLESSED, and from the arduously built makeshift altar in the shamiana, with a different message every year as a backdrop. The feast and Fair is an affair to remember till the next year. In my home (as in most Bandra homes), one member or all participate in the nine days Novena prior to the feast, and following each of the festive seven days, return back with hands full of charcoal roasted chana. The wares at the fair have diminished in quality, yet it was "bought at the Bandra Fair"! A little away from the church, one can't miss the aroma from a small stall in a niche, as the woman calls out, "Choris Pav" —a tasty spicy treat of bread stuffed with pork sausage, to be washed down by a mini cup of tea or coffee, poured from two stainless steel kettles balanced on a bicycle