Two things were guaranteed to get everybody – and I mean EVERYBODY – down on to the SPC lawns at least once a year.
Mass. And Housie.
There’d be a Thanksgiving Mass around Easter-time. That’s when we get out our bottles of tap water to have them blessed. Of course, the previous years’ bottles are still a-standing on the wall, almost full to the brim. 17 days in Purgatory if you pour them down the sink. Used to bless the kids before they raced off to school, or during illnesses (along with Fr Agnel’s mud, it was the most potent cure), sprinkled on anything to make it holy.
Some priests go out of the way to make the Mass special, encouraging interaction and neighbourly bonhomie. And it’s a good thing, coz everybody participates – in decorating the altar/lawns, arranging chairs, making the prayers, singing in the choir, joining in the offertory, doing readings, helping the old folks, etc. Community Spirit at its best.
Mass was usually followed with snacks-n-cold-drinks. Mandatory is the boiled gram. Many a sleepless night was had by all, as sweet aromas made you wonder if Mahim Creek had flowed into Bandra. Hey, who cares? Gimme two handfuls, and I’ll be running back for more!
Or there were crumbly patties, maybe ‘sim’osas, Rasna that could swing both ways – mainly water with a blink-and-you-miss-it hint of sugar, or so sickly sweet your teeth went on edge and your jaws screamed in pain. Why wasn’t Jesus around to work a miracle with the Rasna, then?
And then, the best part – Housie!
Tickets were distributed – at a princely sum of Rs 2, sometimes free. The money went into the prizes, of course. If there was a generous Uncle, or a visitor from Canada / the States / Oz, then we could have TWO Full Houses AND a bucket luck!
There is this hardcore breed of Aunties who frequent Housies at all the Gymkhanas in town. Travelling for miles sometimes, to get that elusive ‘Snowball’. For them, this is the most serious business on the planet, up there with a heart or brain transplant, or getting Nancy’s eldest an honest, sober, fair, own-flat-owning, Dubai-working Goan Brahmin. Spectacles polished with the ubiquitous eau-de-cologned hanky. Ballpoint pen checked for smooth ink flow, with a spare behind the ear. Grandson’s exam board for holding the tickets in place. Some play with 12 tickets at a time – incredible speed & concentration, coupled with the sheer desperation to win by covering all bases.
Now, scratch away the dandruff and ponder – where in the mists of time did the calls come from?
Legs – 11.
Top of the House – 90.
House of the Bamboo Door – Number 54.
What babies do – Number 2.
Ulta Pulta – 69.
2 fat ladies – 88.
Downing Street – Number 10.
Sweet – 16.
Two little ducklings – 22.
Men get naughty at – 40.
Hockey sticks – 77.
The list goes on…
False alarms? The Aunties would scream for the ticket to be torn and the offender to be stripped, flogged and burnt at the stake.
Or maybe seven people got the same line – and the Uncle-in-charge went nuts trying to divide Rs 50 by 7. Keep the change, aage chalo.
Yep, ’twas the best fun you could have as ONE community. Personal jokes flew thick and fast – references to people’s ages as the higher numbers were called. Naughty giggles at “88” and “40”. Cries of “Shake It Up!” as we ‘sweated’ and begged the MC to call out “47” coz we needed just that number to bag the line or ride away with the Full House. For me, that number never ever came. Ah well, if I had a dollar for every number I just missed… I’d get my hair woven.
Game over, civic sense prevailed as everybody helped stack the chairs and clean up bits of paper. Folks stood around chatting, some rushed back to hit the sack. A day well-enjoyed by all, and when’s the next get-together coming up?
So… the thought for the day…
1. Community spirit keeps us together – good neighbours will always be there, in good times and bad. Folks that pray together, stay together. Of course, you gotta move out of your door and enhance the relationship.
2. It ain’t about winning, it’s all about enjoying what you’re doing, giving it your best shot (even if it means buying 12 tickets), sharing the joy even when someone else wins – just coz s/he’s a near / dear one. Not only in Housie.
3. Think healthy, think of your figure. So when they say, “Two Fat Ladies!”, you don’t try to hide under the seat. (Me should talk!)