By God, church ain't what it used to be. Today, kids are allowed to colour in their books, chomp down snacks and – gasp – talk(!!) while the priest preaches from the pulpit.
Thirty-odd years ago, things were a hol(y) lot different.
For one, going to the Saturday evening service would not suffice in my dad's (holy) book; he insisted that the best way to start a Sunday was by attending morning Mass.
So our Sundays started bright and early – no sleep-ins and definitely no breakfast; we were expected to abstain from food for at least an hour before mass.
First things first: dressing in our Sunday best. No jeans or sneakers in the house of the Lord.
Those were the days of petticoats (trimmed with lace) and puff sleeves. Of frocks stitched by over-zealous mums who dressed their dolly-girls in frothy frills and lavender lace.
A sweltering 35-degree day meant for nought; the girls were made to wear said dress, that too, with said petticoat under it. The boys suffered in silence, tugging at their stiffly starched shirt collars below their altar-boy vestments.
Mummy powder puffed your face with Yardley talcum powder (gifted by an uncle working in the Gulf) and slicked back your brother's puff with Parachute coconut oil. Then, with two clicks of your Mary Janes (polished by dad the previous night), you were good to go.
We always got to church with ten minutes to spare. So while mum and dad knelt on the wooden pews, my brother and I watched the spectacle unfold before us.
I would spy the usual suspects, er, churchgoers. "Her Sunday is longer than her Monday," I would half-giggle, half-whisper to my brother, while mum shushed us. If you're saying, "Sunday what the..?", it simply means her petticoat was longer than her dress. Don't ask!
One by one, the 'church aunties' would make a solemn entrance, first “crossing” themselves with Holy Water. Tucked within their ample bosoms was the money for their Sunday Collection, tied up in a floral handkerchief. They would genuflect at a particular pew where they sat each and every Sunday. God forbid, you unwittingly took their seat.
The vaulted church ceilings meant that the fans above were for appearances only. So dad tried to sit us next to a widow (black veil in place) who invariably carried a pretty hand-held fan. You prayed that some breeze would miraculously blow your way and stop the trickle of sweat in its tracks.
We watched and tried to keep up as the congregation rose, sat and knelt through the Mass. (During mum and dad's time, the Mass was said in Latin.) No fussing or fidgeting, no giggling or gesticulating, and definitely no talking during that hour of Mass. If the Mass was a ‘High Mass’, my brother and I would be rewarded for our good behaviour with a Ravalgaon hard-boiled sweet from dad.
The readings always filled us with awe: about Eve being created from one of Adam's ribs; about pestilent plagues and prodigal sons, about parting seas and walking on water, about Jesus and His many miracles; about loss and love, about forgiveness and faith.
After the final hymn was sung and the congregation had dispersed, we would badger the parish sacristan for some unblessed hosts as we were too young to receive Holy Communion. And once in a while, our prayers would be answered when mum and dad would say, "Let's go to Hindu Hotel (a tiny Udipi cafe on Hill Road, alas, not in existence anymore) for sheera and medu wadas."
Amen to that!
Did your family have a particular Sunday routine? Did it involve church? Or a Sunday Roast? Do you remember any special outfit from your childhood? When do you dress up in your 'Sunday best' now, if ever?