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When Basa replaced the birdie

Fiona FernandezAs one eased into the warmth, solemnity and festive cheer that comes with Easter, a few thoughts and observations caught the eye and ear. At a spiritual level, it was refreshing and welcoming to note how celebrants during Holy Week took great pains to include terms, analogies and examples from current diction and modern-day experiences during their sermons and eulogies.

“The priest was totally with it, man!” one caught on to a Justin Bieber-lookalike’s comment to his friend, as both walked out of church. “He even used the word ‘app’…unbelievable, dude” remarked the friend, who could’ve passed off as Usher’s long-lost Indian cousin.

We were also reminded of how choirs (across the city’s churches), who for years now, have laced popular hymns with keys and tunes to keep in sync with current genres. As if to back this move, we’ve also noticed some amount of foot-tapping throughout services too. Almost on autopilot, scenes from Whoopi Goldberg’s rib-tickling, redeeming rescue act for St Catherine’s Church in the 1980s comedy Sister Act came to mind.


Sweet treats: Easter Eggs on sale at a store. Pic/Kiran Bhalerao

Outside the holy confines of the church and into the busy kitchens of most of Mumbai’s Christians, menu talk took precedence over most other mundane musings. “What will you cook this time, Stella — will it be the usual Pork Sorpotel or Chicken Xacuti?” a chatty sixty-something ‘church aunt’ (a term confined to church-goers who one bumps into/ similar type: ‘train-friend’) was heard asking her friend, Rita, weeks before the celebratory feast.

“My son is down from Canada, and he thinks we should switch to Basa — for health reasons.” Shocked silence prevailed for the next minute, briefly interrupted by customary helloes from fellow parishioners. “Err, Basa…it’s the fish I saw on that food channel? Why break away from tradition? I don’t know if Des will like it?” Talk ensued between the new convert to the foreign fish and the staunch tradition bearer about the whys and hows of shifting to healthier, leaner meat. It seemed to be having its desired effect though, going by the number of affirmative nods from Rita.

The former’s case found faith. Both church friends parted ways, as a new follower joined the flock. However, we cannot vouch for a similar reaction from the rest of the Stella’s family at the table, where a delicate lemony-mustard flavoured fish would have taken centrestage instead of the robust, roasted (or stuffed) turkey, chicken or duck. Clearly, etched-in-stone culinary traditions seemed to be experiencing winds of change, from Canada and beyond.

Later, as one exchanged notes with the neighbourhood baker about business during Easter, he had a tale or two to share, about the ‘new-age’ goodies. “Our customers don’t go for the bigger, sugar-filled Easter eggs any more. No food colouring, less icing sugar and a whole list of dos and don’ts,” he grimaced. “There seems to be fewer takers for good, old-fashioned marzipan-made eggs; they watch all these foreign food shows on TV and get ideas,” he revealed, in rant-like fashion. And, he was right. In the next 10 minutes, most of the eggs that flew off the shelves were of the less sugar/less everything variety.

As long as the birdie and the egg don’t fall off of the Easter table for good, these interesting shifts in choices within the community, from choral ensembles to the chow, sure make for a study in society with all its insightful surprises. On that expectant, albeit positive note, Easter tidings to all our MiDDAY readers.

— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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