In Focus

Silent, Starry Night at Colaba's Churches

By Nivedita Bose

Colaba known to pulsate all night long on Christmas Eve, for the first time, adopted a sombre look. The Regal Circle that would be throbbing with traffic filled with revellers lay silent even as a family of Waghris, adorning Santa headgear themselves stood at a traffic signal rushing to every slowing car to sell their Christmas wares. 

SPREADING CHEER: A Waghri family selling Christmas wares at a traffic signal in Colaba

The last mass at Colaba's St Joseph R C Church started at 9.30 pm in keeping with the restrictions on timing owing to the night curfew laid down by the Maharashtra government to combat COVID-19. And, the devout followed suit; Maintaining distance from other families, even wearing masks when in the Church.

"So many would travel long distances to reach the Church every year but haven't been able to attend Mass on Christmas Eve," says Mary Joseph who managed to make it for the last mass at the Church with her mother Meena Ahire who had travelled all the way from Thane and would stay back at daughter Mary's house at Gita Nagar in South Mumbai.

Her 12-year-old son Justin Joseph was just "excited at being out after so long," while her nine-year-old daughter Celina sat pretty in her red and blue salwar kameez waiting for the Mass to start. Sister-in-law Gracy Joseph waited on a bench with her three-year-old Aaron Joseph glued to a game on her mobile phone keeping a watchful eye on her elder son Alex Joseph, playing in the church compound just "happy to be out". 

TOGETHER: (From left) Justin, Mary Joseph, Meena Ahire, Celina, Aaron, Gracy Joseph, Alex, Devansh, Priya De and Peter Joseph
Adorned in a pink outfit Gracy's niece Priya De waited on the bench with her son Devansh on her lap. An obedient Devansh sat patiently, dressed to the hilt, complete with glares and the mandatory mask - in yellow!

As the time for the Mass approached, an elderly lady arrived asking the family to join in the small motley crowd of followers making their way into the last Mass - the erstwhile 'Midnight Mass' celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Third Pasta Lane resident and Holy Name Cathedral parishioner Margaret DaCosta spoke to The Draft Colaba of the organisational challenges that the church had to overcome to organise masses and other celebrations during this period.

STARRY NIGHT: Colaba's Holy Name Cathedral all lit up on Christmas Eve 2020

"Now, with the new directives issued on 23 December 2020 permitting only 50 persons to gather for the Mass, on Christmas and New Year's Eve, the task was simply baffling for the organisers. Also, with the new government rule that citizens above 60, children below 10 and those with comorbidities not being allowed to attend the gathering, things went for a toss," she said.

That Colaba houses the oldest among all communities whether its a Parsi or a Christian community is a given considering that the zone is the oldest in Mumbai. And, in any gathering, religious or social, the involvement of senior citizens is an obvious must. So, the new directive preventing citizens above 60 coming for Mass was nothing short of a body blow for organisers.

Margaret DaCosta
"So now, the organisers requested the parishioners to de-register themselves as the parish has approximately 700 families registered. The good thing is, everyone is cooperating with the guidelines," says Margaret. So, on Christmas Eve, the 'Midnight Mass' at Holy Name Cathedral started at 8 pm and was held in the church, "not on the grounds" as was the norm in the past.

And, today, on Christmas Day, seven masses are to be held through the day, starting at 7 am at an interval of 90 minutes to allow for the mandatory COVID-19 cleaning and sanitisation processes. "What I miss the most about Christmas is the bonhomie and the build-up towards Christmas. Earlier, the celebrations would start a good four Sundays before Christmas right from November end itself. There would be Christmas carols, parties, etc. Now, all of that is a thing of the past and I miss that dearly," recalls a rueful Margaret.