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Nepali Christmas in Delhi

Altar at St Luke’s Catholic church, Defence Colony, New Delhi

 

Josephine and Ayana in front of the crib

Christmas Day in Defence Colony dawned with much more than the usual mist and smog. It was suddenly colder and there was no sighting of  sun behind the dull sky. I missed the 8 o’clock Hindi service and then the 9 o’clock English service at St Luke’s, so I went instead to a wonderful Nepali one at 11. Next to me was Josephine from Darjeeling and her maid.  Her Bengali husband and her pretty sister sat with the choir and  further up on another bench sat Josephine’s mother, a stern and pious looking lady with a blue knitted cap.  Both Josephine and her mild eyed husband are hairdressers from dusty Gurgaon, where they work in a salon owned by a British Indian lady.  Josephine told me their joint salary is just under Rs 50,000 a month, which means they are managing comfortably.

The Nepali ladies were delicate and doll-like, with Hello Kitty faces and long, ironed hair.  Some of them had streaked their crowning glory with blonde and auburn tints and they were in new clothes, although one or two wore ripped jeans. They lent festivity to the sombre, plain interior of St Luke’s. The young man who read the lesson from Hebrews resembled a serene Buddha, until the light caught his gold ear-ring when he  looked somewhat louche. Some of the younger women had very white faces, which may have been rigorously subjected to Fair and Lovely cream and gave them an uncanny air of  the late Michael Jackson.

Father Peter was fifteen minutes late on account of hearing confessions, but then he walked up to the altar resplendent in gold and white robes, his spectacles flashing, and delivered a mighty sermon about family values. Of course, as  I don’t know any Nepali, I couldn’t swear to that but I caught the odd Bengali/Hindi sounding word and deduced the meaning. Halfway through he made the married couples sit together, so there was much shuffling around and the single girls and widows looked a bit forlorn. Then the wife was instructed to (I think) honour her man and the husband made to cherish and appreciate his wife, and last but not least the parents blessed their children.

Lots of spirited singing and Alleluias followed.https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nepali+christmas+pratima+mitchell

There was another outsider at the service and we quickly found out that we were neighbours in Def Col, so I invited Julie MacArthy, a journalist from the U.S. to tea and mince pies from Waitrose. I must Google her before she arrives any minute.

Julie has been and gone and in the course of a lively and irreverent conversation we wondered what the family values sermon had really signified. Apparently Nepal is high on the scale for HIV cases, so Father Peter may have been pressing for a more urgent case  than a seasonal nod at the ideal of the Holy Family. 

 

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