As I reflect on the memories that are associated with many a Resurrection Sunday, I am overcome by ebullience. The first flashback that floods my mind is the atmosphere that prevailed at home during my childhood. My Dads ancestors were blessed to live adjacent to a magnificent Cathedral. The image of the old Jesuit priest sporting his blue beret and immaculate cassock remains so vivid. During the days leading to Easter the Cathedral remained open until midnight. Repentant devotees used to come at regular intervals. The choir gently unleashed their harmonious melodies. The glorious stained glass windows filtered the sunlight like a scene from Victor Hugo’s Notre dame de Paris. Back at home Dada has returned from his shopping at the Pettah Market, a bag laden with sweets such as milk toffees and marshmallows.
Being a culinary wizard in her own right my beloved Mama begins her routine of marinating the beef and pork in carefully selected spices and vinegar. My Dad’s elder sister Aunty Angel pays a surprise visit. After sipping her cup of tea she sets about making her succulent achcharu (a perfect blend of onions, green chilies, olives, seedless dates and cubed carrots drenched in mustard cream). She has brought me a fruit cake. Sunday morning dawns with a thunderous volley of fire crackers courtesy of the jolly burgher boys. Old uncle Giles is clad in a starch ironed full white outfit, and grins solemnly like a celestial being. Uncle Royston walks by with a live rooster, cradled in his arms. The defiant bird will find its abiding rest in the oven shortly!
I am delighted to receive my first Easter egg, an elegant reward for attending Sunday school. The cherished egg is a layer of dark chocolate, its pink soul made up of sweet coconut, infused with strawberry flavour. Petulant Uncle Douglas maintains his decorum as he zealously kisses all the fair damsels at Church. We used to think he had taken an extra gulp of wine at Holy Eucharist! At some Easter services the Lyle Godridge singers would enrich us with their splendid renditions of hymns in a capella style. Lunch was a fascinating reunion. Dad’s brother uncle Stephen would boldly spin many yarns; the best one was how he restrained a runaway Police horse on the beaches of Mutwal. The horses came there from the Mounted stables at Pettah.
There was one year when Uncle Justin, domiciled in Canada returned to sunny paradise and insisted that he wanted a Muscovite duck for lunch. After persistently visiting a few farms, whilst indulging in a dozen lavaria oozing with honey, we finally found his desired duck. His menu choice came under mild criticism. Cooking the duck was another challenge! However, Justin’s beef smore was welcome with much salutation. It tasted even better on Monday morning with slices of crisp roast paan (bread) and a chilled glass of ginger beer!
Apart from all this culinary extravagance, it is paramount to remember that Resurrection Sunday is all about renewed hope. My college Chaplain once said that our lives were similar to tea leaves. Once immersed in boiling water the leaves give out their best flavour and become a refreshing drink. As we face challenging situations, we too must remain positive and yield meaningful and beautiful results. We receive divine grace to transfigure our mortal lives. The joy of Easter is best expressed in Latin – Salutem Pascha – He is Risen.