By the time you read this, the 400th anniversary celebrations for the Church of St Andrew would have been flagged off on the grounds of this historic church in Bandra. The release of a guide book that salutes its origins, growth and presence as the oldest standing parish in the suburb was the first chapter of the year-long celebrations. Festivities and events around the vibrant suburb have been planned to bring every neighbourhood to life.
Last week, when this journalist connected with a few parishioners over the making of the guide, it became evident how the spirit of the community was well and truly ticking to ensure work went on with clockwork precision. A glance of the guidebook that we had access to offered terrific insight into this observation. Everyone, from senior citizens to illustrators to a design company – all Bandra residents – had pitched to ensure the book did justice to the unique milestone. While interacting with a member of the historical group that is managing the 400th anniversary celebrations, we learnt that all the effort was pro bono. We were impressed, especially after seeing the quality of production that would match any coffee table book.
Cover/ Gynelle Alves
Delving deeper, we heard of amazing contributions, of every kind — from 80-year-old sepia photographs to rare record books and handwritten notes — that were donated to add value to the book’s contents. Interesting historical references and chronologies were labourously pieced together to create a continuous timeline of the church, the parish, and to a large extent, the suburb that occupied a place of pride on the island of Salcette. The book represented Bandra. We were regaled with stories of how the community grew, and thrived around this church that emerged as a magnet for the community and a mother parish for other churches that sprung up later. The residents an parishioners have plenty lined up, we were told, all of which will be revealed in the coming year. The excitement is palpable.
In this time and age, where even a decade of survival is celebrated with fanfare, four hundred years is a jaw-dropping achievement. And for this, credit must be given to this inspired community. Some time back, we had witnessed a similar scenario in Thane, at the restoration of the iconic St John the Baptist’s Church, where a community had nurtured and created a positive impact for the area at large.
In a rapidly changing city, where neighbourhoods are fighting for survival, and where local heritage is under constant threat, such success stories carry a ray of hope to spur others to sustain living and breathing examples of community living in Mumbai.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day