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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Resurrecting hope: The spirit of Easter in an eggshell

Easter is an uplifting symbol of human resilience against despair and darkness

brunch Updated: Apr 20, 2019 23:31 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
Easter is one of humankind’s most enduring and impactful tales of redemption
Easter is one of humankind’s most enduring and impactful tales of redemption(Illustration: Sunil Kumar Mallik)
         

I must confess it’s Amitabh Bachchan’s face that first springs to mind when I think about Easter. Anthony Gonsalves breaking out of a giant egg, gibbering about “a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.” (Tharoor, anyone?) Then there’s a flood of other words, images, sounds and tastes, oh the tastes! Like the Eid extravagance after the month-long fasting, Easter doesn’t come easy. Well, it does for the festive opportunists. It’s the people of faith, who brave Ramadan and Lent to reach the promised feast, who bewilder me. It’s like running a race to win a medal when you can get the medal without any of the sweat.

Memories of the afterlife

My Bandra childhood had one chief Easter deity: Teacher Lizzie with the confections. What the grey-haired lady taught us in primary school eludes me completely – my memories of her are set to piano music, so perhaps singing? – but I remember her home on 16th Road, not far from my local pub, where you could pick up Easter eggs and marzipans on the days around the feast, wrapped in cellophane with pretty red bows. The eggs would be nibbled over days – I still can’t decide whether I liked the taste or not. But anything sweet that came once a year, dressed in a pretty bow, was a good thing. A dubious philosophy I still stand by.

Amitabh Bachchan in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
Amitabh Bachchan in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

Down the road from our Khar home, the Sacred Heart Church put up an extravagant Easter pageant. Watching the suffering Christ, thorny head bowed low, carrying his cross through the audience, was a moving experience. Oh, the thrill of watching grown-ups act in a play like we put up in school! The big choir, the fancy lighting, the dramatic plot, the open-to-all approach – explains the rise of humanity’s most popular religion in some ways.

The Mummy returns

A couple of years ago, I attended the Easter service at the 200-year-old St. Mark’s Cathedral in Bengaluru, built in the style of the iconic 17th Century St. Paul’s cathedral, with a beautiful Mangalorean family. People rustled in in their silks and suits, filling up the pews with their faith and fragrance. My cold heart was duly warmed. And then the service began, which made it brim over with joy.

“It’s the people of faith, who brave Ramadan and Lent to reach the promised feast, who bewilder me. It’s like running a race to win a medal when you can get the medal without any of the sweat”

Here’s why. The cheerful young priest began relating an anecdote about a member of his parish taking his ailing mother-in-law to visit the Holy Land. As fate would have it, the old lady passed on while on the pilgrimage. The question arose: to transport her remains back home (at great cost, which he specified) or to bury right there, in the holiest ground? The dutiful son-in-law finally decided to bring the old lady back home for the burial – and here’s where I almost broke into loud applause – “Because he was afraid she might rise on the third day if he buried her in the Holy Land!” The packed church emitted a few surprised giggles and several disapproving gasps. A priest after my own devilish soul!

Hope springs eternal

In an eggshell, the world needs hope. It receives and transmits hope through the stories we tell. And Easter is one of humankind’s most enduring and impactful tales of redemption.

“I still can’t decide whether I liked the taste [of Easter Eggs] or not. But anything sweet that came once a year, dressed in a pretty bow, was a good thing ”

The New Zealand mosque shooting in March was one of the world’s deadliest hate crimes, and another dispiriting example of human depravity. But in all the bleakness, I couldn’t help but be consoled by two luminous stories. Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah, an Afghan immigrant, confronting the shooter, risking his life to save those of his fellow men. And of the New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern sporting a hijab, face aching with grief and compassion, quick to enact tough gun laws in the aftermath of the terror attack. Born a Mormon, Ardern left the church in 2005 due to conflicting views, especially on LGBT rights. But this was not the time for optics. For showing the world an agnostic politician grappling with a deep religious conflict. Ardern was a strong and kind woman taking on the pain of the victims and their loved ones, not just standing with them but becoming them, constituencies and ideologies be damned. You give the world hope, Abdul and Jacinda. And you remind me that you don’t need to be Christian to be Christ-like. Happy Easter, everyone!

From HT Brunch, April 21, 2019

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First Published: Apr 20, 2019 22:59 IST