And so the Bandra feast is on

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And so the Bandra feast is on


For those of you who are not familiar with the spirit of the festival or are new to Bandra, or for those of you who know it only for the terrible traffic jams and the incessant honking of all the irate drivers of the vehicle owners, who need to reach somewhere in a hurry, for all the noise from those various whistles being sold, and the many stalls of food with their aroma wafting in the air

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The Bandra Feast is actually a celebration of the Nativity of the birth of Mother Mary. A Koli fisherman dreamt that he would find the statue in the sea. The statue was found floating in the sea between 1700 and 1760. A Jesuit Annual Letter dated to 1669 and published in the book’s at St Andrew’s Church, Bandra (1616–1966) supports this claim.

And so post 1760 when the church was rebuilt, this feast was a celebration of that miracle.

This hill to the Shrine used to be filled with mango groves, and people would come from all over to pay their respects in bullock-carts and in boats across from the Mahim creek, and they would then walk down the steps through the fair for refreshments and goodies.

My grandma would tell us stories about this, that she said was told to her, by her dad. The story about finding the statue in the sea, I always thought was just something she made up, till I actually googled facts about it. As a kid I never saw this type of Bandra.

My Bandra was different, and my fair was also not quite like what my grandma narrated to us. We always went to church every feast, and then walked  down the steps into the fair, and my parents bought us toys that we would beg for, mostly kitchen sets that we would not really see in shops, and weird-looking dolls, oh and kites even though I have still not learnt to fly a kite, then there were marbles and tops, that I was quite good at. It was just great, since there were no designated toy shops, this was a journey in getting as much as we could, and last but not the least that dreaded cane shop.

We hated that, and my mom used to find a place to keep them safe. But most of the time, my sister would figure the safe places out, and we would break them into tiny pieces.

So, if you are wondering if I got caned, yes once in a blue moon, I did. I also remember that enormous Ferris wheel or the giant wheel that was filled with screams of glee from the heart of it, I never ever ventured anywhere close to it, but today I totally love roller-coasters, so you see, we are always changing sometimes we get braver, and hopefully sometimes wiser.

When I grew up The Bandra Feast meant ‘The September Garden’ and the various dance and music evenings with Louis Banks, and the ‘Jiving competition’, there was a very different vibe to Bandra while I was young, there was a lot more tolerance and acceptance to the fact that yes, it would get crowded once in a year and it would be loud. I see that a bit lacking even for other religious festivities the year through. Today the moment someone has a religious celebration, it becomes a matter of safety and concern, is that not a sad state for us as humans. We all need to again start believing in the simple philosophy of “live and let celebrate”.

To us “The Bandra Feast” was much like Christmas, because we would have cousins coming over for the feast during the week, which meant a few more toys for us from the fair and even more sweets and no matter what the spread was on that day. We had “fugiyas”.

Now, I don’t know if you have heard of this, but when one of my Punjabi friends first heard of it, he thought it was a profanity, till he tasted it, and then never made fun of me again.

As for all of you who do not know what a fugiya is,and are hearing this for the first time, I must say you are missing out on one of the most delicious forms of bread you could eat. ‘Fugiya’ is basically yeasted deep fried bread, that is on an East-Indian’s table for all feasts. And is served with Vindaloo, Moile, Lonvas, Sorpotel, Chicken curry and the now very rare and extinct Beef stew.

If my dad was preparing batter for fugiyas, it meant that either we were celebrating, or someone really loved was coming over for a meal. It’s that kind of a bread that just says, yes this is special. So, if you have the good fortune of knowing an East-Indian, get them to make this for you.

My kids love ‘fugiyas’ so it’s made on a Friday or a Sunday, when the entire family is home, and if my dad is not part of making the batter, he always says that it’s good, but something is missing, and I have become used to this, it’s part of the routine, that reminds me that I have still not mastered the right technique and I have a long way to go. Which is great because life would be very boring if there was nothing new to learn.

So, if you do have time this week, walk through that fair, strike up a conversation with an old aunty selling fugiyas, buy some, ask her to share the recipe with you, she will definitely give it to you without measurements like all mums, or then just tell her it’s awesome, because I promise you it is.


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