In Focus

Churchgoers, Police Spread Xmas Bonhomie

By A Draft Colaba Correspondent

You'd never have believed a curfew was in place if you went by the bonhomie shared by the police personnel from Colaba Police Station and Cuffe Parade Police Station stationed outside Holy Name Cathedral at Electric House, St Francis Xavier's Chapel at Colaba Post Office and St Joseph R C Church. Present in full strength to oversee the arrangement and the incoming mass attendees, were the police, affable and almost apologetic of their 'mandatory' presence by law to ensure the state directives on COVID-19 were followed.

DUTY BOUND: Colaba Police Station personnel stationed outside Holy Name Cathedral on Christmas Eve 2020

At R C Church, as is commonly known among the locals, parishioners started to trickle in from early evening on Christmas Eve for the 'Midnight Mass'. Closer to nine pm, the scheduled time for the mass, more families started to pour in through the church gates even as the posse of policemen standing guard outside smiled warmly at each attending family, even making small conversation with the lining attendees.

KEEPING SAFE: Cuffe Parade Police Station personnel at St Joseph R C Church in Colaba 

Ganesh Murti Nagar resident and R C Church parishioner Philomena Joseph arrived with her entire family in tow to attend the mass at nine pm. Daughter Shelly, who now lives in Dombivli, also came to the church. "I live at Dombivli now but make it a point to visit this church regularly and attend all events," offers Shelly.

MATRIARCH: Philomena Joseph (in red mask) with her family and friends at R C Church mass

The restrictions on train timings didn't deter the parishioners who ensured that they worked around them to make it and on time to their respective parishes. And, this year, in particular, owing to the travel restrictions, Shelly who didn't want to take any chances, "left from home in Dombivli rather early just to make sure to reach Colaba before evening."

Mary Gupta, living in Vasai with husband Mitesh couldn't avail public transportation owing to the COVID-19 travel restrictions in Mumbai. "That didn't change things, however," says Mitesh who drove down by car all the way from Vasai to visit family in Colaba and attend the R C Church mass at nine pm. 

TWINKLE, TWINKLE: A star adorning the interiors of R C Church in Colaba

The COVID-19 restrictions have hampered the Christmas celebrations this year and the devout, like Philomena, felt the sting as well. "The 'Midnight Mass' started early this year just so it would end on time. Earlier, many years back, it would go on till late in the night, way past midnight," she recalls.

There have been restrictions on the use of loudspeakers over the years leading to a preponing of the Mass and, now with COVID-19, the norms of wearing masks, keeping safe distance and wrapping up things before the curfew deadline of 11 pm are even stricter. That said, the cheer associated with Christmas hasn't been dampened. The crowds are smaller, the curfew in place yet the cheer's as vibrant as ever.  

ON GUARD: Cuffe Parade Police Station personnel guarding St Francis Xavier's Chapel at Colaba Post Office

"This year, we're all praying for the virus to go and the world to become a safer place, once again," says Cuffe Parade-based house-help Martina, summing up the collective spirit of the Christian community, this Christmas. "We understand the situation and so do people," says a Cuffe Parade policeman standing guard outside St Francis Xavier's Chapel.