Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Cathedral of the Holy Name: II

More pictures (for whatever reason, neither Picasa nor Blogger's "Add Image" feature lets me put more than 4 or 5 images per post. Most annoying.)

  Posted by Picasa

Some more pictures.

I've always loved this Cathedral and its surroundings in a leafy part of Colaba in South Bombay. Wodehouse Road stretches from the traffic circle in front of the Prince of Wales Museum (a vast Indo-Saracenic structure) to the sea at Badhwar Park, where the huts of a macchimarnagar (fisherman's colony) that probably predates the city, are perched on the edge of a bay surrounded by the tall office skyscrapers of Nariman Point or the tall residential skyscrapers of Cuffe Parade.

Badhwar Park, now a railway officers' residential complex, is the site of the old terminus of the BB&CI, Bombay-Baroda-and-Central-India Railway (now Western Railways), the Colaba Terminus, which was torn down in the twenties, I believe. This Saturday afternoon I alight from a 92 Ltd. (coming from Haji Ali), and walk past the walls of Badhwar Park, along a well trod path from my college days (One of my best friends lived in Badhwar Park, and more often than not, I'd end up walking to Mass from his place). On the right, on this stretch, there used to be a line of old garages, in a curious structure, which, according to the same friend's father, was the remnant of a pedestrian bridge over the old train tracks. It had a peculiar sense of the archaic about it, something that survived by chance, a palimpset of a past existence long vanished. Now it's gone, replaced by a stretch of lush green grass, separated from the street by a tall, menacing spiked iron fence (to keep out squatters and encroachments. Green space guarded by a prison fence. Ah Bombay!). I curse myself for not having photographed this relic (as I always told myself I'd do one day) before it finally gave way to the march of history.

A little ahead there used to be some delightful old bungalows (one housed the honorary consul of some Scandinavian country --- maybe Finland? I don't recall). Now they're gone. At the corner of Wodehouse and Cooperage Roads (where the old train tracks went, past the current Cooperage and Oval Maidans, to Churchgate), the front shell of one of these bungalows -- the delightfully named Buckley Court (the site of an old hotel) -- has been preserved, while in the place of its innards rises a huge skyscraper, complete with several layers of parking spaces. It's as if the old mansion has moulted and produced this tall concrete snake from its entrails. [This idea of having a skyscraper emerge out of a historic structure was gaining in popularity it seems ...]

Right next to Buckley Court is the Archbishops' Residence, in that characteristic dark-grey Deccan basalt, with the spires of the Cathedral reaching skywards next to it. As I approach, the air is filled with the voices of dozens of little girls and boys, in grey uniforms, chattering and buzzing, running around, making way for the tall interloper walking up the street. School must have just let off. There's the Convent of Jesus and Mary school (more popularly known as Fort Convent)as well as Holy Name High School attached to the Cathedral. Around the corner, on Cooperage, is my alma mater, Campion. Among the young children milling about, I spot a slightly older lad, dressed in a familiar white uniform with blue tie, with a dark red badge in the middle. I smile as I recognize the emblem of archrivals of the Britto House (I was in the Loyola House. There was also the Xavier House. Anyone recognize a pattern? :)). Oh gosh, how I hated putting that tie on every morning! Being caught tie-less meant certain punishment, mild (a verbal scolding) or extreme (a whack or worse)and demerits for the House, depending on which teacher spotted this unforgiveable breach of conduct.

"Uncle, uncle, please take that hanky out from the tree!" a young voice insists in Hindi as I walk into the Cathedral compound. Memories of school, (just yesterday, wasn't it?) come crashing down as I realize that I'm the "Uncle" being addressed. The boys have managed to lob their handkerchief (which was serving as a ball) high up into a fern. It's well above their reach, but just within mine. I hand their toy back to grateful squeals of delight and walk into the Cathedral to pray.


Kevin said...

Hey, Gashwin, I must visit. I've only been in Bombay two months and haven't seen any of the larger churches. The Mount Mary church in Bandra I found very small.

Gashwin said...

Holy Name is beautiful, Kevin.

And there's tons of churches in Bandra. Do check out St. Peter's and St. Andrews (both on Hill Rd.) to start with.

I'm in Baroda --- but heading back to the States in a few weeks.

Enjoyed your blogs! :) Will blogroll you when I can ...