There is no place in Mumbai more peaceful than Mount Mary Church at 2 am in the morning, with the dipping mercury and the warmth of the prayer candles to keep you company. In the dead of night, when the air is still & the sound of the waves muted in the distance, it makes for an ideal end of day. The only trace of humanity is devotees who have one thing or another to ask of God- wishes, requests, questions. That, and the lady selling prayer materials to all who cometh, accompanied by the omnipresent stray dogs. The steps up to the Grotto are a gentle climb & the ink-black darkness beyond it frees the mind of worries & sorrows, if only for a short while.
The first time I visited Mount Mary was in broad daylight with a Chinese friend a long time ago. She enlightened me about the legends associated with the church - the significance of the wax dummies of houses, children et al and how "sacche dil se maangi hui dua ko Mother Mary kabhi inkaar nahi karti" (Mother Mary never refuses genuine prayers). I thought of this while I prayed. And while listing my "requests" & "pleases" to God, I couldn't help but smile - smile at the manner in which our wishes change as we grow up. The innocent requests for peace & happiness for friends, parents & the world-in-general morphs into more self-centric pleas- as if the world just got left somewhere far behind as you grew up in the rat-race.
Nowadays, the visits are infrequent and always at a late hour. When the world tucks itself comfortably into their holsters, one can feel the freedom & absolute peace under the starlight & the shadow of the towering church. There's no denying that one leaves this spot with a replenished state of mind and a hope that Mother Mary has indeed heard your prayers. As for me, I keep mixing selfish demands with selfless childlike requests, hoping that God wouldn't mind me cheating in my prayers :)