THE UNCHANGED SCENARIO – Bandra Fair

SEPTEMBER month in Mumbai is the time for monsoon to announce its departure, by occasionally hitting the skyline with vibrant spells of downpour – to onset the tone for a vibrant spell of festivities to begin. Amazingly, among the many diverse religious festivals held in Mumbai, the occasion of Mother Mary’s birthday at the Mount Mary Basilica in Bandra is celebrated with enthusiasm by people of diverse religion.

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The Mount Mary Basilica in Bandra
The Mount Mary’s Basilica in Bandra

SEPTEMBER month in Mumbai is the time for monsoon to announce its departure, by occasionally hitting the skyline with vibrant spells of downpour – to onset the tone for a vibrant spell of festivities to begin. Amazingly, among the many diverse religious festivals held in Mumbai, the occasion of Mother Mary’s birthday at the Mount Mary Basilica in Bandra is celebrated with enthusiasm by people of diverse religion.

Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai, home address of famous Bollywood personalities is also popular among the masses for Mount Mary Basilica. Eight days of festivities is held every year at the Basilica, which initiates on a Sunday after Mother Mary’s birthday on 8th of September continuing till the successive Sunday, called as ‘Bandra Fair’.  Being part of this celebration implies living an ancient tradition which started right from the conception of this Shrine. It was in the year 1570; the Jesuit Fathers from Santa Ana Church brought a wooden statue of Mother Mary from Portugal. They positioned the statue on the main altar of an Oratory made of mud, at the Mount near Lands End.

During its early days of celebration, devotees would reach to the foothill of Mount at wake of dawn. They travelled from their villages in bullock carts, the long journey made it tough for the bullocks to pull the carts onto the hill top. The foot of the hill became a parking spot for the bullock carts and also a spot for the villagers to refresh themselves. Later, they would walk up to the mount to participate in the religious ceremony for celebrating the birthday of their beloved Mother Mary. This voyage incidentally lead to the spirit of merriment, for after the completion of rituals the pilgrims would indulge in sipping tea, munching snacks from kiosks and chatting with fellow pilgrims.

The contemporary scenario is relatively different as the sole purpose remains the same, the addition is the expansion of commercial activities. For most of its present-day pilgrims the journey from their respective homes reaches a refreshing spot at the Bandra Station. During the Fair, special buses are arranged by BEST (public transport) at the Bus Depot near Bandra Station, these buses navigate to halt at Lands End.

From Lands End, the trip leads to a short vertical climb – which is an upward walk via Kane Rd. The interesting part of this climb is the sense of harmony among people, all in a meditative mood under the sweltering sun. An observant pilgrim will also become familiar with the hottest fashion trend followed in the city, as among the devoted crowd are many groups of youngsters enjoying the special trip.

It’s a traditional practice to offer flowers and candles during a visit here, kiosks selling these offering are located all through the lengthy stretch of this road. Pilgrims have the flexibility  to care less about going to these stalls as the venders take up the onus to reach up to them and yes of course…. bargaining happens! However, you do need to visit these stalls if you wish to purchase a wax replica – depicting a special need. A guaranteed surprise that awaits you is the sight to choose from of a wide range of white wax replicas, all stocked-up next to each other. These offerings are made in prayer, for thanksgiving or in request of favours.

During the period of fair, masses (religious service) are held only in the morning at the shamiana (tent) adjacent to the Basilica. The walking crowd halts at a distance, near the Basilica. They wait at a junction, to view the majestic Shrine to its left and to its right overlooking the Basilica is the Oratory of Our Lady of Fatima – flowing with sea of worshippers ascending and descending its stairs.

Pilgrims step inside the Basilica’s premises in queues to attend mass or to visit the Shrine. While standing in queues, waiting patiently to pay their respect, the practice of alms-giving is accepted by pilgrims to show support to various charitable causes.  Within the Shrine, it’s a sense of experiencing heaven on earth; on a seven-step high altar made of white marble is the venerable statue of Mother Mary with Child Jesus.

Travelling down its history, one of the most significant chapters unfolded in the year 1700. A pirate army of Muscat Arabs arrived at Bandra with the purpose to find treasure. They were frustrated on finding no treasure in the Chapel. In rage, they axed down the right forearm of the statue in expectation of finding gold. It is also believed that a huge flock of bees attacked them, to fail them from their intention of setting the Chapel on fire.

The statue of Our Lady of Navigators from the side altar of St. Andrew’s Church was positioned at the Mount, for the countless pilgrims who paid visit to the Chapel. In the Jesuit Annual Letter dated to 1669 and published in the book St. Andrew’s Church, Bandra (1616–1966) it is mentioned that a local fisherman had dreamt to find a statue in the sea. The statue of Our Lady of Navigators was found floating in the sea during the period 1700 – 1760, Bandra Fair started to celebrate this miracle. The local fishermen named this statue as ‘Mot Mauli’, meaning ‘The Pearl Mother’.

Many years later, in the year 1761, the damaged statue of Our Lady of the Mount was restored by placing an attachable Child Jesus on it and was brought back to its original place. The statue that was taken from St. Andrew’s Church was returned. On 5th December 1954; Cardinal Valerian Gracias crowned the statue of Our Lady of the Mount and Child Jesus with gold crowns upon its arrival from a pilgrimage across the city and its adjoining areas. And on the very same day, Pope Pius XII gave the Church the status of a Minor Basilica.

Its history is fascinating and the time spent inside this Basilica spellbinds a person to a meditative calm of being in an isolated island along with the divine force.  While leaving this abode a person surely feels the cheer to lead on with life. The exit route from the Basilica leads to the Mount Mary’s Steps. Descending these steps opens doors to merriment and the conclusion part of this exciting journey.

The Mount Mary’s steps is also a meeting point because chances are that you may accidently bang head on, to meet long lost friends.   The side stretch of these stairs is taken over by kiosks selling varied types of sweets; the pathway to eateries serving non-vegetarian delights is amusingly spotted across the side lanes of these kiosks.   It is heartening to conclude, that the prime purpose of visit to the Mount Mary Basilica remains unchanged i.e. the religious and social experience.

 The Mount Mary Steps
The Mount Mary’s Steps

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Blackboard Diaries

THE blackboard, an orthodox requisite in schools is effective learning equipment in homes too. This conventional thing encourages learning through trial and error method and develops your child’s fine-motor and cognitive skills. Install a smaller form of it and witness its wonders …

THE blackboard, an orthodox requisite in schools is effective learning equipment in homes too. This conventional thing encourages learning through trial and error method and develops your child’s fine-motor and cognitive skills. Install a smaller form of it and witness its wonders …

Toddlers are aggressive scribblers; they go on a rage of random scribbling. “That’s mischievous!”, if that’s your outburst, then hold back. Well exactly… if you could ask their view they would blush to murmur, “Oh Mommy, I really like scribbling.”  Toddlers are at a grasping stage of development. Scribbling helps in achieving wrist and hand muscle control, and eye – hand co-ordination. Scribbling on the blackboard, your child can use chalk according to preference in colour, wipe off the marks then choose to use another colour. It gives them the freedom to manipulate without parental guidance.

After your child overcomes the scribbling saga, it’s the onset stage of forming patterns.  You can train your child to form patterns – circles, standing lines, sleeping lines, slanting lines, squares, rectangles, curves, triangles etc. which is the base to learn writing. At first write a pattern on the board, teasingly challenge your kid saying, “Can you write like me? Copy and write the same.” When the child is trying to copy the same, back your child’s performance with praise.

It’s easier to grip a chalk than a pencil at the initial stage of writing. The writing of alphabet and numerals becomes easier because your pre-schooler does not have to brother about the size of the script; it can as be as gigantic as possible or as minute as an ant. They can choose to write on the corner of the board or the centre. Their concentration is only on the formation of alphabet and numerals.  This helps your child to withdraw their apprehensions, if any, towards writing and leads for a smooth transition on writing in books.

Through observation, kids discover new words and numerals. A blackboard lends this exploration a means to exhibit. Foremost they observe the letters in their own name and will copy the same. They come across popular words usually displayed on TV e.g. ‘BHEEM’ or ‘DOREMON’ which they copy on the blackboard. By this exploration your child develops vocabulary and learns pronunciation of words with ease.

Children can be taught to draw simple things e.g. shapes, ball, apple, flower, cat, hut etc. to create interest towards sketches. If your child is drawn towards creativity they may build on to it and progress to draw complex sketches.

A blackboard is like a playground for your kid to reveal the details of what they have learnt or found interesting in school. They will draw objects; write alphabet, numerals and words which will give you a good glimpse into their growing world of knowledge.

Kids declare their ownership on the blackboard; they allow themself to make mistakes while writing on it. They play pretend games (the target – their Teacher, of course!) and it keeps kids engaged in free play. Older kids may set their own mini question paper and may even write answers to it. Kids study free willingly which further develops their interest towards studies. For young children, blackboards are a better option than whiteboards because chalks provide better grip and marker-pens are unsafe.

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My Vibrant Self at a Static Fair

I was at the furniture fair, totally clueless regarding what I was specifically looking for but exclusive pieces of designs reflecting an attitude, a grace and which attracts the buyers towards it and leaves the salespersons job insignificant – does interest me.

I was at the furniture fair, totally clueless regarding what I was specifically looking for but exclusive pieces of designs reflecting an attitude, a grace and which attracts the buyers towards it and leaves the salespersons job insignificant – does interest me.

I entered the fair with all these conscious thoughts and was immediately greeted by a salesperson’s sudden garish voice, “Hello Madam!!!” ….  The tone of his expression was both irritating and amusing – it took me by surprise. Holding back my laughter; at first I smiled suspiciously at him and later glanced at the display.  The furniture were very Indian and classic in design which I had seen very often in furniture shops, I slowly stepped forward trying to politely convey the salesperson by disinterest.

There was a segment which was especially into customized sofas, which interested me. The enthusiastic salesperson persuaded me into sitting on every sofa which was on display, to comprehend the relaxation factor – the couches which bounced gently were the frontrunners in the competition! He presented me a thick catalogue consisting of all the possible designs which I could not have preferably imagined, nevertheless the price quote made me shiver. “Alright, can you give me your visiting card  … I’ll surely give you a call”, I tried to flee being respectfully dishonest. Nevertheless, the salesperson insisted, “Why don’t you book a sofa now, the price quoted at the fair is cheaper?” To discourage his coaxing – I cunningly replied back, “I am not sure now, will definitely get back to you”.

Proceeding ahead, I came across a section specializing in indoor fountains; the designs were rustic in nature – showcasing creativity to its optimum potential. Walking around those beautifully crafted pieces was similar to a short trek in the countryside.

Here was a section blooming in royalty with furniture made from teak wood, possessing an unmatched elegance. The different types of clocks at display – the tower clock, the grandfather clock, the wall clock and the table clock gave the impression of belongings from an emperor’s palace …for a while I imagined myself as  Cinderella … of course, lost at a furniture fair.

The next segment which aroused my interest was the one with display of swings. I hopped to sit on some of the swings to simulate my childhood memories, I realised few designs which looked appealing lacked the comfort factor and left me speculating that  –  if I would have sat on them for more than few seconds, I would have definitely fallen flat on the ground along with the swing.

Exiting the fair, I observed a visitor of the fair comfortable sitting on a resting chair – the   expression on his face intrigued me. It did not seem that he was relaxing on the chair with the intention of purchasing it; he appeared to be in a pause mode – distancing oneself from the commotion around.

“Hello Madam!!!” … The same voice of that anomalous salesperson fell in my ears to stun me, this time I could not hold back my laughter and left the place pleasantly smiling back at him.

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Tomato Rasam

Quick Indian recipes – Easy,healthy,delicious

IMG_0144 - Copy

On tiring days one desires to eat the simplest of food. My definition of a simple dinner is steamed rice topped with tomato rasam. Rasam is a traditional South Indian soup which is sour and watery.

My innovative approach to it:

  • Submerge cassia or cinnamon stick in hot oil, followed by finely chopped tomatoes. (You have to be generous with the no. of tomatoes.)
  • Complement in green chillies, crushed ginger and garlic, turmeric powder and salt.
  • Allow the tomatoes to melt.
  • Pour warm water over the puree. Add-on additional flavour by enriching it with chicken or vegetable stock.

HAPPY EATING! (It is tangy … enjoy)

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Have you watched children playing?

They quarrel, they laugh, they whisper, they grumble …

They quarrel, they laugh, they whisper, they grumble,

They rejoice, they learn, they talk, they dance,

They sing, they joke, they fall, they fail and they grow.

In these playful stints they live,

Inhaling life and exhaling anxiety.

 

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