The crowd jostled to get as close as possible to Mother Mary's statue inside the Basilica of Mount Mary. There were some who tried to sneak through the backdoor. All they wanted was to hang on long enough to take a pic of Mother Mary with the infant Jesus even as guards ushered people to move ahead after they had had a glimpse of Mother Mary.
Sunday marked the first day of the feast. As thousands made a beeline to Mount Mary, traffic was choc-a-bloc on Hill Road and serpentine queues could be seen outside Bandra station for buses even though services were increased. The celebrations will go on till next Sunday during which people from all faiths come from all over Mumbai to seek blessings and attend the fair.
"We make a point to come on the first day itself, something we have been doing since our childhood," said Kevin D'Souza, who had come with his family and friends early on Sunday. "It took us around 45 minutes to seek blessing. When we pray to her, she answers our prayers," said D'Souza.
Many get drawn to Mount Mary during the fest to get their special prayers answered. "I gave a wax house when our dream of having a home was fulfilled," said Nathalena D'Souza. On Sunday she had come with her husband just for thanksgiving. "We thanked our Mother for the year that went peacefully and prayed that the coming one would go peacefully," said Godfrey, Nathalena's husband.
Stalls saw large crowds looking to buy candles, wax figures, and flowers to offer to Mother Mary. Once prayers were offered, people stood in queues for special masses and made the most of the fair. "Names for the masses for departed souls and thanksgiving are sent by those who cannot visit personally. Many feel that during this period there is something special about the blessings," said Sister Effie who took details for the counter. "We have seen masses packed and everything has moved on smoothly," said Bishop John Rodrigues, rector of the Basilica of Mount Mary.
Outside Mount Mary steps, giant wheels, merry-go-round, air rifle shooting, bungee jumping were among the games that were put up for which not just kids but even grown-ups patiently waited for their turn in queues. Other stalls included those distributing food and beverages besides garments.
"The food items have remained like they were," said Twinkle Fernandes who bought jackfruit chips and halwas. The aroma of pickles permeated the air around the steps. "We have taken some pickles that are traditional," said Celine Mary, who planned to spend the rest of the day shopping.
Business, however, was yet to pick up. "We are hoping for a surge in the crowd as the day passes. Right now it is 30 percent less as compared to what we expect," said Shakeel Ahmed, who sold slippers.