This is her first visit to a church, but she is sleeping through it. On a warm spring morning, Sarah Rose is being baptised in the Cathedral Church of the Redemption. Her mother, too, was baptised here. Opened in 1931, it was the Viceroy’s Church, built of red sandstone and Burmese teak on what is now known as the President’s Estate in Luyens’ Delhi.
One of the only two churches in the city to have an organ, the cathedral’s prayer hall is presently silent. The sunlight, coming in through the narrow recess openings of the thick stonewalls, is making the dark chamber feel mystical. Over 50 relatives and friends of Sarah have gathered around the church’s baptismal font... father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunts and cousins. Almost 50 days old, Sarah is looking exactly what her name means in Hebrew — Princess. She is dressed in white. The silk frock, with smocking, has a yoke collar with long sleeves and a white satin ribbon at the waist. The frock is trimmed with narrow white lace made into roses.
“I designed it myself,” says the mother.
It is too early to talk about Sarah’s behavioural traits but she laughs a lot and cries only when hungry or wet. She has also begun to gurgle and coo. “Sarah has a strong personality,” her mother says. One evening when she was five-weeks-old, her father returned home from work and started smothering her with kisses. The daughter looked fiercely at her dad and then with her little hand, she sternly pushed his face away from her. Both parents burst into laughter.
Sarah’s parents had first met on the Internet and later fell in love over passionate arguments on the merits of William Dalrymple’s book
The Last Mughal
. “I feel amazed that I am partly responsible to have created such a perfect and beautiful daughter as Sarah,” says the father. “I continue to marvel at this miracle which my wife and I have wrought.”
To her mother’s relief, Sarah doesn’t object as she is passed on to the priest’s arms. In the hushed dignity of the wood-panelled cathedral, the “determined young lady” is inducted into her family’s religion. Perhaps overwhelmed by the moment, Sarah’s grandfather, the family photographer, stops clicking his camera and watches the priest sprinkle the holy water on her face. The priest then makes a sign of cross on the forehead. All is quiet as he intones:
…We thank you for making this child your own this day through baptism, by giving her new birth in water and the Holy Spirit, and making her a member of the body of Christ…
Later, Sarah’s mother says, “I want Sarah to be a secure, confident and good human being.”