Soap bubbles float around you as the aroma of fresh halwa wafts across the Mount Carmel Church grounds,Bandra. Music by Pat Boone,The Archies,Eddie Rabbit and The Beatles plays in the background and compete with childrens squeals of delight as the giant ferry wheel picks up momentum.
This year,the feted arena in the Mount Carmel Church Grounds,known as Carmel Mela for the last 17 years,has been formally rechristened September Garden,its original moniker. The name actually changed last year when we went to apply for police permission they said they do not allow melas. So we went back to the old name. This year,we made the transition officially in all our letterheads and documentation, said Fr. William Athaide,Parish Priest of the Mt. Carmel Church. Everyone is happy to go back to the old name as it is so nostalgic.
For every day of the week-long feast,a band will play every night and we will have jam sessions and dances on the terrace and downstairs. In the 70s,we paid Rs 5 for entry to the September Garden. Right next to the grounds was a Wigwam,a Red Indian tent where you had to be suited up if you wanted to play cards inside. We also had a wooden ramp called the Well of Death where motorcyclists would perform stunts. There was no 10pm deadline. Its not the same, said Derrick Pereira (55),a resident of Vile Parle.
Kayne Miranda (24),a resident of Bandra who was a child when he first visited the Garden before it was called Carmel Mela said,I dont remember much. There was a different charm then about going to the fair. Even if they change the name back now – its not the same it doesnt have that neighbourhood character.
Fr. Athaide too admits atmosphere is irretrievable. When I was a priest here 18 years ago,parishioners were more involved in celebrations. The canteen was run entirely by catholic aunties who are now too old to cook. Now we make money through the fair but the involvement has declined. We are outsourcing everything music,food,security and games stalls. Earlier,September Garden would get too rowdy after too much drinking and people would break into fights – its not the same anymore. But the crowd just got too big to handle for those kind of festivities.