India is a land of many communities and one of the most colourful communities is that of the East Indian. The East Indians are a community of Roman Catholics who are the original people of Mumbai. Their music, dance and cuisine are appreciated all over the world. Like the Goans and the Mangaloreans, they are a fun lot too.
They got their name from the East India Company of the British that converted a large section of the local Marathi-speaking people to Catholicism. The mother-tongue of the East Indians is Marathi, but it is quite different from that of the local Maharashtrian community. It is a blend of pure Marathi, Portuguese and English.
Since the East Indians did not want the British Colonial government to confuse them with the Goans, Mangaloreans and other Christian settlers in the region, they decided to adopt a name that would make them stand out as a separate Christian identity. The cuisine of the East Indian community is rich. Weddings, Christenings and First Holy Communions play an important part in the community. No two masalas are identical. The dish prepared by one family differs from that made by the other.
East Indians celebrate their weddings for eight days. They have the Umracha Pani, the Paspatni and the Sara from both the boy’s side and the girl’s side. Fugias, vindaloo and sorpotel are the main dishes for East Indian weddings. But the vindaloo and sorpotel are quite different from that made by the Goans and the Mangaloreans. During the ‘Umbracha Pani’, all those attending the ceremony go in a procession around their area singing and dancing to draw water from the well, which is used by the bride-to-be or groom-to-be to bathe. East Indian Marathi songs are played and people, irrespective of whether they are Goans, Mangaloreans or East Indians, enjoy them. Since there are no wells in Mumbai, people go to one of their relative or friend’s house to bring water. It’s brought in a huge vessel. The water is then poured on the bride-to-be or the groom-to-be in his or her respective home. After all these rituals, finally the wedding day arrives.
On the day of the wedding, the groom-to-be sends a car to pick up the bride-to-be and waits for her outside the church. After she arrives, the best man of the groom-to-be welcomes her with a bouquet of flowers. Then the couple walks down the aisle along with the bridesmaids, flower girls, best man, page boy and other family members to reach the altar, where they are given a special place to sit. There, the priest shakes hands with them and offers his best wishes. The Mass is then celebrated and the priest reads psalms from the Holy Bible, which is followed by a sermon called the ‘homily’ on the sacredness of their wedding.
The East Indian Marathi word for Mumbai is ‘Mobai’. East Indians living in East Indian villages like Gorai, Manori, Culven and Juhu still speak Marathi, but those living in places like Bandra, Andheri and Kurla have adopted English as their mother-tongue. Although the East Indians have preserved their pre-Christian Marathi culture and traditions, many Portuguese influences have been absorbed. The traditional dress for East-Indian women is the nav vari lugra. These sarees are worn in colours of navy blue, red and green, depending on whether the husband of the woman is living or dead.