Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas lights in Mumbai

I took these pictures a couple of days after Christmas, in the vicinity of Sacred Heart Church in the Mumbai suburb of Santa Cruz. This church was built in the 1930s, I think in place of the Santa Cruz church from which the area got its name. The old church was destroyed long ago. Below is a picture of lights in the church driveway.

Below is a picture of the intersection of Church Avenue and Hasanabad Lane. A street with a Christian name and a church on it, and one with a Muslim name and a mosque on it. The neighborhood is home to plenty of Christians (nearly all Catholic), Muslims, Hindus, and no doubt other religious minorities.

Up to perhaps the mid-90s, the surrounding lanes were lined with cute little cottages that belonged mostly to Christians. The houses had names like "Carmel", "Villa Linda", "Aurora", "La Petite Fleur", "Violet" and "Homestead". Some still exist, but others are replaced with ugly buildings like the one at the intersection below. Many of these new buildings have names that reflect cultural poverty -- "Silver Symphony", "Silver Melody" and "Silver Harmony". One unpretentious villa (I think it was Violet) got torn down in the years I was away from the city, and in its place sprang up a little pink fortress called, equally incredibly, "Pinky Cottage". I have to wonder if such strange names are chosen by people who insist on using the English language despite having no feel for it. That is sad. Why not name your home something nice in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Sanskrit, or whatever? Do the people who name them have no beautiful vocabulary they can call their own?

Below, a closer look at the star. It says "Love was born at Christmas, star 'n' angels gave the sign", and then hope, love, joy, peace, and "Wishing you a merry Christmas".

I don't know for sure what this little bit of road is called. I'm just calling it Convent Avenue. It's the lane right across from the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana. Every year the entire lane is lit up, and for some reason it always reminds me of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet.

Below, the star on Convent Avenue.

I think from a distance this star looks like an LED dragonfly.

I took the picture below with a flash, so you can see the Christmas lights intertwined with tropical bougainvillea. India is north of the equator so technically it's "winter" in Mumbai, but that just means about 15 degrees Celsius (roughly 60 Fahrenheit), so I was in T-shirt and sandals.

I walked past the dragonfly/star, and took the picture below.

Below, a closer look at the star/dragonfly. It was a lot of LED bulbs strung around a wire frame. Probably nothing special to look at in the daytime, but quite pretty at night. I thought the sign dangling below struck a jarring visual note. FWIW, it says "The star guides you to the Christ, Prince of Peace".

Somebody's home on either Convent Av or St. Francis Road.

Below, a vinyl sign at the corner of Convent Av and St. Francis Road, put up by the Congress Party. Mumbai can always count on its politicians to uglify everything with their poor aesthetic sense. There was a bigger, uglier Christmas greeting put up by the BJP near Sacred Heart Church, but I didn't take a picture. If they want to make our neighborhood ugly, the least they can do is make us laugh - Baba Siddique should have worn a Santa suit for this picture. Next election I'm not voting for anyone unless they wear a Santa suit in their Christmas poster.

Below, a dilapidated cross outside a dilapidated cottage at the corner of Hasanabad Lane and St. Francis Road. My camera is straight, the cross is crooked.

Below, festive decorations outside a coffee shop in Santa Cruz East.

Happy 2010!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas at St. Thomas Cathedral, Bombay (Mumbai)

The cathedral of St. Thomas (part of the Church of North India) is in the heart of Mumbai's business district, which is still called "Fort" (it used to be a walled-off fort in the early British settlement, but nothing of the wall remains now). The church was built in 1718, a century before the British defeated the Maratha rulers of western India. In 1718, Bombay was just a spot of British territory in a vast swathe of native-controlled territory.

Below is the fountain in the small hemmed-in front yard. I took the picture just a few days ago. No white Christmas in Bombay!

Embossed on the fountain are the words, "Whosoever drinketh the water that I shall give him shall never thirst". Bit ironic in a city suffering from an acute water crisis entirely because of utter disregard for nature and greed for profit. The fountain is dry as a bone, although there were a hose and two earthen pots of water nearby, and the yard looks well-watered.

Below is the entrance to the church. For some reason I couldn't avoid the haze.

Below is the view of the church from the narthex.

Below, a memorial to a colonel of the Bombay Army. The walls and floor of the cathedral are crammed with memorials of varying degrees of ornateness. A remarkable number of them commemorate people who died in their 30s or 40s. This stone is faded and stained, perhaps from moisture, but most are in good condition.

Below is the crib. I tried to shoot it in as Christmas-card-like a manner as I could.

Below, a longer shot of the crib. As you can see, it's tucked between memorials.

Below, a memorial to the Old Toughs. It reads: "To the Glory of God and Sacred to the Memory of All Ranks of The 'Old Toughs' who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-1918, and in the many campaigns through which the battalion served since it's [sic] formation in 1668 till it's [sic] disbandment July 31st 1922. This tablet is erected in the city of their origin and their home for over 200 years by their comrades on disbandment in proud and grateful memory of the sacrifice they made for King - Country. 'Spectamur Agendo'.".

Below, Christmas tree and eagle lectern. Where I'm standing is the crossing, where the nave and transepts of the church meet.

Eagle lecterns are commonly seen in churches. The eagle is a symbol of the apostle John.

Below, an historic pew. The lesson I learned from this photo: wear gray or brown to make a non-descript reflection if you want to stay out of the picture!

Above, a memorial to Robert Money. The name is familiar to many people in Mumbai because there's a high school and technical college named after him. It was founded in 1836, a year after the East India Company civil servant died of illness at age 32.

Below, stained glass window to one side of the entrance, depicting saints Gabriel, Thomas and Michael.

Merry Christmas!