In Bombay being a cutlet and going to church are two intrinsically linked things. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or not, going to church is simply one of those cutlet things you do. So now that I’m in Delhi, I have to carry on the cutlet tradition…(I’m still telling myself that)
In Delhi’s main Sacred Heart Cathedral, there is an interesting sociology at play in terms of a seating arrangement. The church is divided into a middle section and two outer sections divided by pillars. The middle section has four sets of benches divided by the aisle in the shape of a cross or the four quadrants of an x and y axis. Right in the front on either side of the aisle sit the white ex-pats with their families of well behaved children. Interspersed between them are the Indians who ‘can’ sit with the white ex-pats or are just trying it out to see how it feels to sit in such close proximity to a white firang. Then towards the end of the front sections and the middle sit those ex-pats from the (and, excuse my political incorrectness here) non-white countries. Big huge…uh, men you wouldn’t want to meet in the street at the wrong time of the night drunk or otherwise and amazingly beautiful women with elaborate hairstyles and clothes and adorable children, equally well behaved. Its enough to make an anthropologist write up a proposal for research funding! And of course tapering to the end of the pews and the outer sections are the Indians; also the section from which the most cell-phone ring tones can be heard during mass! But here too there is a hierarchy. At the head of the Indian section are the hep ones – the aunties in pants (and dresses in the summer) with their suited husbands and daughters and sons in the latest fashion. The ring tones from this section are of the latest rock and pop. Then comes the sari clad women in (and you have to admire this) chappals in winter with only one layer of stocking underneath. This is the section of wiggling children with the most interesting faces some of them dirt streaked in the most interesting designs. They are usually bribed into silence by red-coloured lollipops.
And then there’s me in the time-honoured Bombay cutlet tradition of ‘outstanding cutlets’ who have strategically made it just a few minutes late for mass so we can stand between the last pew and the doors. I’ve been telling myself it is because Delhi was soooo hot, I needed some fresh air. Lately I’ve been telling myself its because Delhi is cold and the church is colder (you know, the stones etc.) so I need to find pockets where the sun creeps through – hence the doors!
So why do we go to church? Well its because the church says we have to go and atone for our sins. That and my mother ensures I remain guilty for the rest of the week (she keeps a tally of the number of times I’ve missed mass). But in Delhi with no mother and the fact that no priest knows me here (thankfully) it is the business of worship – the samosas and chai to be had once mass is over.
This excellent little stall is near a building outside which there are beautiful flowers that change with the season, but always seem to be flowering in the church compound. There are vegetable patties and coffee on offer, but I recommend the chai and samosas. And by the variety of people with their variety of colours who gather around to buy their portion, I’d say I am not alone in my reasons for coming to church 😉