If there is anything about my life as a boarder that I will remember in vivid detail for the rest of my life, it will be the Holy Week. It is not because I have any pretensions about being religious, rather it was because of the great Good Friday ritual. Ever since I finished schooling, I have never witnessed anything like the very long, very ceremonial ritual performed around the Crucifixion. Believe me, I was an acolyte (one among many) on several of these rituals (once I even blacked out on my knees). Right up and at the back was our famous choir accompanied by our equally famous gigantic organ (I’ve been inside it), and in front of the altar was the wonderfully life like mannequin of Jesus, whose arms and legs could be manipulated.
Anyone attending that Good Friday mass (and there were crowds) could not but help shedding a tear. With the priests chanting, the choir wailing, the organ tearing our hearts, and the volunteer actors hit the nails in rhythm, our eyes spurted tears. The last part was taking Jesus down from the cross and laying him at the side altars. Then the line to kiss the feet of Jesus would form and coil out of the church never seeming to shorten until late at night. Just the day before we visited the last supper in the long hall near the main gate. There sat Jesus and his apostles all life like mannequins, surrounded by bowls of fruit, and bread and blessed cross buns. Finally the midnight mass leading to Easter was equally spectacular. And of course this also reminds us of Easter Eggs. Well if you had some pocket money you could get a chocolate one from McRonells. Else you could watch others relish theirs. It also reminds me of a time when I was real sick and in the infirmary under the care of Joe (who else?) and my Mom way up in Ahmedabad wanted to cheer me up, so she sent a shoe box full of Easter eggs made from real eggs (emptied of course). But she had painted faces and decorated them and filled them with small sweets.
Yes, I miss the way mass was celebrated in those days. I miss the latin prayers I had to learn in order to serve at mass. I miss serving at the five am mass in the priest’s chapel and at the girls convent. I miss the loose garments we wore as altar boys. I miss Fr. Casale holding the Gospel near his nose. I miss Fr. Soler’s loud and sudden crescendos.
But now I have a confession to make and ask forgiveness from all the boarders during the years I was there. Well you see, when I served at early mass, I had time to myself while the boarders were at the daily 6.15 am mass. During that time on the days that we were given a cubic centi of butter on the gutli, I would hastily tear my gutli in half and take a peck from every of the nearly 150 gutlis enough to apply a thick layer to two or three gutlis which I would buy from Brother Pinerio later. But can you blame me, I was growing fast and was always hungry. Don’t ask me if I had a skeleton key to the cubboards where some of the boys kept their tuck. Coming back to Easter Sunday, it was celebrated with a special breakfast and lunch