Today, as every Mack in Bandra makes his/her way to Mount Mary’s Basilica to celebrate Bandra Feast, my mind rewinds to the Bandra Fair days of my childhood.
While the Feast Day is always celebrated on the Sunday after the 8th of September, prior to this is the nine-day Novena to Our Lady. Accompanying dad at the ungodly hour of 5.30am to the Mount ensured that we got to visit the Fair at least three times during the eight-day festivities.
The Feast Day itself brought thousands upon thousands of devotees to the Shrine. Crushed in the throng - an amalgam of sweaty armpits, talcum powder and frilly frocks - we were automatically pushed forward once the previous service ended. Religious duties over, we’d make a pit-stop at the Home for the Aged for a breakfast. Yummy mince patties, chutney sandwiches and lucky dip prizes were the drawcards.
Then we'd wind our way down the Steps and all the way to Chapel Road to my Nana’s House for the Bandra Feast feast, with many, many diversions along the way. First stop: the numerous sweet stalls where mum bought packets of kadio bodio, curly white sugar bits, and roasted channa for all her colleagues at office. After that, my brother and I would race from one toy stall to the next, the gaudier and gimmick-ier, the better! What should we buy??? A motor-boat (see my Sail Away piece). Bubbles to blow for hours on end. A china tea set to play House-House. A kaleidoscope with the coloured glass bits inside forming mesmerising geometric patterns with each flick of the wrist.
Bandra Feast Sunday at Nana’s house usually meant that scores of big bosomed aunties and 43rd cousins from Vasai and Uttan descended upon us after a visit to the Mount. We’d grin and bear it; trying not to count the fugiyas they ate(less left for us!). A siesta followed the splendid Bandra Feast lunch; the sound and fury of our uncles' snoring in direct proportion to the number of pegs they’d drunk.
The evening dictated another trip to the Bandra Fair. September Gardens outside Mount Carmel’s Church was the place to be. Teenage boys out to patao chicks by buying them pink candy-floss and hoping they’d cling onto them once the Tora-Tora ride gained momentum. Prima donnas and beefed-up blokes filled out entry forms for the September Queen or King contests held on the last Sunday of the Fair. Others tried their luck at the games of skill. My three tries to knock down the nine cans usually missed their mark by a mile. Deflated, I’d turn to dad who would save the day by expertly kicking the football through the suspended tyre. A bar of Rexona soap or suchlike was the coveted prize.
We’d make a bee-line for the Giant’s Wheel, the serpentine queue only heightening our anticipation. The thrill of your stomach sinking as you descended turned to terror as dad purposely rocked the carriage. And if our bucket-seat was right on top once the ride ended, we had even more time to convince dad to pay for another go... Yipee!!!
Opposite the September Gardens was the next joyride - the Sea-on-Land, and a little ahead at St. Anthony’s Home was the Galloping Horses. Once we’d hopped onto the handsome steeds and the carousel music started, we went - round and round, and up and down.
Weaving in and out between the Funny Mirrors as our bodies magically morphed from fat to thin to droll to comic, savouring our Joy ice-cream which came in a plastic ball, watching the pariahs perform their tricks at the Dog Show, and posing for a family photo with fields of garish tulips as the backdrop… And before we knew it, it was 9pm – time to go home but comforted by the promise of returning tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.