On Skype earlier today, mum and dad reminded me that the novena to the Mount began this morning. Now, if you’re a Catholic living in Bombay, you’ll know what I’m referring to…
Since 8th September is Mother Mary’s birthday, every Catholic winds his/her way up the hill to Mount Mary’s Basilica in Bandra for a nine-day novena prior to the Feast. This culminates in the week-long Bandra Fair.
This event brings back many memories. But most of all, the novena brings back memories of my getting LOST!
Yes, you read that right.
I’m not sure if these are my actual memories or whether it’s embedded in my psyche thanks to mum and dad recounting this tale to me every September for the past 30+ years!
Here’s what (supposedly) happened:
I’m three or four years old. My mum and dad are making the novena to the Mount. They park our red and white Vespa*** next to the Cross opposite the Basilica (see photo above). Yes, all four of us on one scooter with my mum sitting side-saddle! Dad carries my baby brother Jason in his arms.
They inch their way through thousands upon thousands of devotees. Everyone in the surging crowds is trying to find “standing room” in the shamiana erected outside the Basilica for the novena (see photo below).
Crushed in the teeming throng – a hotchpotch of sweaty armpits, talcum powder and frilly frocks – I somehow get separated from my parents. Mum thinks I’m next to her; dad thinks I’m with mum.
That sinking feeling dawns…
Where IS she?????
Panic. Fear. Horror.
‘Mother Mary, we’ll do anything if you help us find our daughter…’
A frantic search ensues.
My dad’s sixth sense kicks in.
He goes to where he’d parked the scooter.
There I am, not looking the least bit worried, standing next to the scooter!
‘How did you know how to find your way back to the scooter?’
‘Did you ask anyone for help?’
‘How did you remember where the scooter was parked?’
A million questions cross their minds. A million scary “what-ifs” whirl a dervish in their heads. But none that a three-year-old can even begin to comprehend.
I still shudder to think what could have happened that day.
And that’s why I am eternally grateful to Mother Mary.
And scooters! 😉
*** Mum just texted to say our scooter was not a Vespa but a Lambretta. Dad bought it from a family friend who was immigrating to (you’ll never guess!) Sydney, Australia, for the tidy sum of Rs.2000 ($400).
So tell me, have you ever got lost (as a child or even as an adult when you’re walking or driving)? Have you ever been on a motorbike or scooter ride?