Vot men? You don’t know how to tell a typical katlic?
‘Thou shalt drink. Thou shalt jive.’ If there were commandments requiring you to be a ‘katlic’ these would be first. ‘Vot to do man, bugger it comes with the genes.’
People are always exclaiming, “You don’t drink! What kind of catholic are you?” - As though the Pope decreed it. Then, as if the answer to the next question would redeem me they hastily ask “Do you jive?’ An affirmative nod saves my soul and I am admitted back into the fold.
By religion, we are Roman Catholic. Roman, because we are governed by the church in Rome, not because we have dual passports. By culture, katlic. Or ‘Mac’ as people refer to us after they’ve known us for two sentences. How can anyone miss the “Vot men? Or “kya man? ” where the ‘man’ comes free with every sentence quite oblivious to the fact that you’re a woman. Or other phonetic jewels like tree (three), aahks (ask), ‘doll’ (dal), dat (that), or the “faader – mudder” (father/mother) that I would like to believe is some dialect of German, but nein. It’s trademark ‘Mac’ talk.
Of the several theories that float around, one says Mac is a derivative of ‘macca pau’ (butter ‘n’ bread) because supposedly that’s what katlics eat.
The drinking of course, we’re sure of. “Michael daru peekay dhanda karta hai” from “Zameer” tells a small part of the story. We drink at Holy communions, christenings, at other festivals too: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays…. You get the picture.
And of course we drink at those crazy carnivals called katlic weddings. Where you dress up, quaff wine, slip on confetti, stomp at the Wedding March like drunk soldiers, get sozzled, stuff face with potato chops, vindaloo, sorpotel, pork roast, let face fall forward involuntarily into plate of salad, do the mandatory birdie dance, throw the bouquet, wake the neighbours with off-key rendition of “He’s a jolly good fellow” as you zig zag home.
Katlics like to sing. Where there’s a Mac gathering, not counting funerals, there’s a ‘sing-song’ session. “My Bonnie lies over the ocean’, ‘When the saints go marching in’ and the quintessential ‘Annie’s Song’. No Mac party is complete without a guitar and one sloshed uncle who will be dragged home by the toes.
Katlics mourn with the same passion. Wearing black at funerals and for months after, and fasting with fervour at Good Friday. But as December knocks on their doors you‘ll find Crawford market besieged by katlics from ‘Maim’ (Mahim) to Marine lines taking home so much lace you’re not quite sure if it’s for the curtains or the dresses.
At Christmas katlics eat guava cheese and cake and drink (more) wine, go to midnight mass at 8.00 pm. because Jesus said ‘Never mind, keep the peace’ or similar, then in 27 degree heat wear jackets to Willingdon or Catholic Gym and jive the night away.
Though being a katlic may be more about cultural togetherness than going to mass every Sunday we religiously fulfil the requirements. To be a really good katlic you must go inside the church. They have a name for people who don’t “Outstanding catholics”. And if those black sheep did go in it would be a miracle close on the heels of Jesus’ turning water into wine.
If you’re katlic you subscribe to the Examiner where katlic girls search for katlic boys with sober habits and own accommodation.
Good katlics go to confession. When we were kids we knelt in the dark confessional and sincerely asked forgiveness. Standard sins were ‘I beat my sister’ for the boys and ‘I told lies in school’ for the girls. Of course when we grew up we either stopped going or told only the simple one and hoped god would get the others telepathically. We didn’t want to give old father Andrew a minor coronary. Besides, our idea of what constituted a sin had changed.
Hindi movies have katlic girls rushing tearfully to church to pray to Mother Mary for the safety of their threatened love. Maybe that’s why it’s believed that Catholic girls will anoint themselves after every four-letter word and, ‘The morning after her wedding night, she’ll go to confession.’ Katlic boys are in a different league altogether. They play hockey or football till they die and are very eloquent with words like ‘pasting’ (beating), loafer, bugger, as in ‘Vot you doing men, bugger?’
Now some katlics don’t drink or jive or play the piano or chase football, or sing off-key. To them I’d say ‘Come let’s wash away our sins, let’s have a beer. Cheers and Hic!
(Published in the Communities column in the Sunday Times.)
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