The Dickensian alleys of Sonapur village in Dhobi Talao come alive most interestingly around Christmas. In Wellington Terrace, on the street saluting physician-mayor Simon Fernandes, residents miss their neighbours who moved north to Orlem and Borivli. Such Catholic colonies were once populated enough to have people sleep on corridor landings. Till the 1970s the wadi hosted festive dances on a wooden floor.
Our Lady of Dolours Church here was a cemetery, then a chapel before attaining church status. At Kaizer Building facing it, parishioners C D’Souza’s confectionery introduced sweets like bibinca, bolinhas, dodol, doce, fruit tarts and plum cake. An old-timer drolly describes how the Dolours priest placed a loudspeaker in C D’Souza’s to drown conversation during sermons. “That resulted in coffee-talk rising many decibels, disturbing the vicar himself… Women with sleeveless dresses or without head scarves were publicly berated. Khomeini must have learnt his statecraft from the Sonapur priests.”
Caridade and Maria Ruzai had opened C D’Souza Cafe in the 1950s. Her name, Maria Ruzai, earlier christened Marosa Restaurant in 1947 at Fort – a childhood favourite. As my father worked at Bombay House, round the corner, Marosa offered our weekly treat of chicken-in-bechamel-sauce patties washed down with Gold Spot.