By saturday, the quiet hillock in Bandra (West) will be transformed into a fairground.
Lakhs of devotees will climb to the Mount Mary Church before dawn to celebrate the birthday of Christ’s mother. A corollary to the holy day is the Bandra fair, which begins on September 9 and lasts till the 15th.
“It is traditional to attend the mass and then go for the fair, where I meet old acquaintances,” said Bandra resident David Athaide, who has been visiting the fair for 40 years.
But the festive spirit wafts in even a week before the fair — with lights and festoons put up at many places, and a few early stalls set up outside the church.
There is also the aroma of the food that locals sell on the street, contributing a portion of the profits to the church.
“Contributing to the church and participating in the fair is our way of giving back something to Mother Mary,” said John Extros, who has been
selling home-cooked food at the fair for three years.
Even if it is not the mass and novenas, which are held at the church every 45 minutes, the fair does manage to pull in all. Like Dale Stephen, a native of Kerala, who heard about the fair from friends.
“The whole atmosphere is exciting, with the crowd and different novelties at the various stalls,” said Stephen, who lives in Kalina.
Colourful stalls can be seen dotting the curves of the hill all the way from the church’s steps to the foot of the hill. From traditional to popular items, it’s all there. The stalls are open from 6 am to 10 pm.
The 300-year-old fair sees about eight lakh visitors every year. But the fair has now lost its old charm, feel some. “Public gatherings mean money and thus the spiritual aspect of the feast is undermined,” said a Catholic Social Forum member, who did not want to be named.
Agreed Lily Abreo, a Colaba resident. “I do not attend it regularly now because of the milling crowds and traffic. But when I go, I never come home without a bagful of Goan sweets for my son,” she said.
The civic body is planning to fill potholes on the four approach roads — Mount Mary Road, St John Baptist Road, Rebello Road, and Chappell Road.
The area will also see tight police security. “We will also station two ambulances and fire tenders there,” said Senior Inspector Laxman Bhure of the Bandra police.