Ranjan Kalbaskar has been coming to the Mount Mary Fair for the last 10 years. Fifteen years ago, when the Navi Mumbai resident fled home after a fight, he was untraceable for over a year. “My mother made a wish that if she finds me, she will come here every year. She traced me the next year in Thane. Now, I ensure that I fulfil her wish when she cannot make it,” said Kalbaskar, holding his 14-month-old daughter.
The eight-day Fair attracts people of all faiths. It starts after the first Sunday of Mother Mary’s birthday. The way to Mount Mary Church is lined with stalls selling toys, earrings, T-shirts, eateries, delicacies like halwa and pickles, music in regional languages like Marathi and Konkani, merry-go-rounds and giant wheels for children, and even tattoos.
French citizen Gean-Michel Briclot was impressed by the multi-cultural draw. “We have similar fairs in France but we do not have people of different faiths come together. Ours are themed according to food, wine or religion,” he said.
Stall owners were particularly happy as the weather did not play dampener on the opening day. “It is good that it is not raining this time. The crowd is more or less like last year, and people are buying goods. The sale rises in the evening and towards the end,” said Roshan Ali, one of the stall owners.
However, there was grouse from locals who had put up non-tender stalls. Some even gathered around the residence of the petitioners on whose orders the high court limited the number of stalls to 165, as against the earlier 400.
“Cars parked here take up more space than the stalls. How are stalls a bigger civic problem?” asked Pushpa Lawrence, whose stall was taken away by the civic body. “They did not defend us properly and we cannot pay large sums for tenders,” added Kavita Sood. License inspector Kadam said that as per the BMC order he had lifted over 100 stalls.
Tushar Aphale, zonal president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, said, “We support locals as they have receipt for the stalls they have put up here since many years. The BMC gave wrong information to the court. We will fight for 400-500 stalls of locals which have been denied permission.”