Around this time of the year The Family begins to talk about Bandra. A few years ago we went for a nativity play in St. Peter’s church and were bowled over by the voices of two amateur singers. This year we did a more mundane thing: a peek into churches, and a walk down Chapel Road. Our first stop was St. Andrew’s church (above), a very open institution. At 7 in the evening people were coming in and out, even though no service was on. A street dog wandered in, and found a comfortable place behind a pew, where it curled up. The special thing about this church is the nook devoted to St. Andrew, a fisherman like the residents of the island at the time of the coming of the Portuguese. The local tradition is to offer bread to the saint, bought from a little booth near a door. Two women ran the booth, and took charge of moving the offerings from the altar to a table by the side. A stern message next to the altar forbade the garlanding of the icon.
Down Hill Road is St. Peter’s church. Nothing much seemed to be visible there. So we moved along to the other end of the road. This part of Hill Road is always lined with vendors. In this season they sell Christmas artefacts: stars, fairy lights, Santa Claus caps and a variety of tinsel and decorations. Opposite the Elco stand is Boran Road, leading into the Bandra gaothan. This is an old village which has been incorporated into the city. It is now a protected heritage enclave.
A short walk down Boran Road and a sharp right turn took us to the crowded Chapel Road. At this time of the evening it was jammed: a large Volkswagen was trying to negotiate the road, and completely blocking it (above). We squeezed by and found that the road ahead of this knot was fairly empty. D’Costa’s Backery (photo at the left) made a mockery of proper spellings. Further on we found a hardware store selling fairy lights, where all the sales people were mesmerized by a lady explaining what kind of lights she wanted. At the entrance to a house two girls were selling handmade paper decorations for christmas trees. The Family entered into conversation with them, and probably disappointed them when she left without buying anything.
We walked along. Clodovicus was trying to find the house he rented when he first came to Mumbai. We passed a large barbershop with one lone customer being attended to. I’m always fascinated by barbershops. I peeped into this and found that the large establishment could seat only two. So it was certainly half full at this time of the night. It seemed like a place which I might want to try out one day, so I backed out and took a photo to remind me of it. The name is unusual enough that one can remember it without too much effort.
All of Chapel Road is lit up during christmas. The fairy lights and stars give it a festive look that the stream of traffic cannot subtract too much from. Along the road are these commemorative crosses. Bollywood movies of the seventies would feature a drunken hero arguing with god at one of these. Now they are barred up within a cage. Is that a sign of less tolerant times or more traffic? In any case, the cage provides a nice parking spot, and parked scooters provide a handy refuge to local cats.
We hit paydirt when we came to the Gonsalves’. A little stall was set in the open doorway, with a display of wonderful East Indian christmas goodies. The creator, Angela, was happy to show everything to The Family: from the guava cheese and baskets (open pastries with coconut candy filling) to the marzipan and cakes. She was reluctant to sell the marzipan, since it was still hot and hadn’t set. The Family pleaded with her, and left with marzipan and instructions on not to close the packet until it was set. By the time we were back home there was not a lot left to set.