Monday, January 22, 2007

postheadericon Vot men? You don’t know how to tell a typical katlic? by Joan Pinto

When I first moved to Bangalore from Bombay I was often asked (after establishing I lived in the suburbs ofcourse) if I had been to a lot of Mac parties. Mac??? I didn't even know what the term meant until one helpful person pointed out it meant "Macca Paus" the term by which Bombay-Catholics are affectionately called. It came as a surprise to me, but people outside Bombay really do dig the "macca paus" - let's face it, they're one community that really, really knows how to have fun. So when I came across this article by Joan on her blog, I couldn't resist asking her if I could put it up on this blog. The Bombay Catholics, in particular the Bandra Catholics, have their own little unique thing going on, something you don't often get to see outside of Bombay.

This is a great article...if you've lived in Bombay you will read, nod your head and smile, and if you don't, you will be just as amused. Read and smile.

A big thank you to Joan for letting me use the article on my blog.

Here we go:

Vot men? You don’t know how to tell a typical katlic?

By Joan Pinto

‘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 “Amar Akbar Anthony” 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!



beenzzz said...

Lotus, WOW! That is so interesting and cool! I want to go and hang out with the Katlics. I like their thinking!!!!

ML said...

I agree with interesting. They look like a fun group of folks!

Lotus Reads said...

lol, beenzzz, yes, they're a wonderful bunch of people. I don't think you'll meet any where you are going to, way up in the North, but if you chance to stop by in Bombay on the way back you could go party with them! ;)

They are,ml, they are! I hadn't realized how much fun they were until I left Bombay.

Beloved Dreamer said...

Great post Lotus! I will have to stop by Joan's blog and tell her so also. I wonder if she once lived in NY because this is how most New Yorker's
Sometimes when I am reading a novel about India I wish I could have you nearby me to translate all the Indian words I don't understand. This was so funny and ineresting. BTW,I have been to some of those parties. The best are after wakes.
Also, thanks my faithful reader of my poems for your kind comments.


hellomelissa said...

i was raised catholic and i don't remember anything so fun! maybe i should have been in bombay.

gautami tripathy said...

Angel, I know a lot of katliks! And I like most of them. THey are much misunderstood.

I loved your post!

Thanks for directing me here. I will go chk Joan's blog too.

Lotus Reads said...

Wow Beloved it's great that you make the connection between Bombay Katlics and the New Yorkers. I haven't seen that aspect of New York and I would definitely love to!

Hi Melissa That's the charm about Bombay - everybody there learns to have fun, but especially the katlics and I think it's because they live by the motto, "Enjoy today and worry about tomorrow later" ;)

Hi Gautami You're welcome! You are right, they are so misunderstood because their philosophy is quite different to that of a mainstream Indian. Yes, do pop over to Joan's blog, she'd love to hear from you!

Cecilia said...

Hey am a Kaltic i loved this blog! good one:)

iMan said...

This was a really, really interesting post.

Typically, from anecdotal knowledge and through generalizing, people just assume that one group of religious followers everywhere are all equally the same in practices and customs. However, this refutes that notion and presents a slight "sub-culture" if you will of people belonging to the Catholic faith.

Usually people will just assume European Catholics are the same as Americans and that idea is applied everywhere yet this group even spells the title differently and have so many idiosyncratic features it feels like something else.

That's really the beauty of cross-cultural comparisons among groups of people;compare two groups and there will always be variation between them. Sort of like how all individuals have some unique variation even though everyone is essentially the same as morphological human beings.

Madhumathi said...

Lotus, I loved this post, very entertaining! You should check out a gem I stumbled on while surfing:

I went to school with many many Macs and hung out with them. You are such a close-knit community, wherever in the world you are!

Lotus Reads said...

@Cecila - Yeay, lucky you! It's wonderful knowing how to enjoy life! Thank you for visiting, I hope you will stop by again.

@iman - Just visited your blog. I like what you're doing with it. I love anthropology and there's so much happening the world over with cultures and subcultures that you're never floundering for blog fodder. I just lack the time to post on everything that interests me. Yes, you're right about Catholics being the same, and yet different, the world over. This diversity is so exciting, isn't it?

@Madhu - thank you so much for visiting, I always love seeing a comment from you. I'm just half a Mac, sadly, and not even that, because my mom was brought up by Maharashtrians in Bombay. Loved the link, such yummy recipes!