THE PROSPEROUS SUBURB of Handra, in the north of Mumbai, is connected to the city by the Mahim Causeway. Amidst its new apartment blocks, swanky boutiques and restaurants, are vestiges of its past as a small Portuguese enclave. The quiet lanes with tile-roofed bungalows are inhabited by a community of local East Indian Christians, whose ancestors were converted by the Portuguese. A number of Roman Catholic churches, too, were built by the Portuguese, who retained Handra until the late 18th century.
The most important of these is the Mount St Mary Basilica, which attracts devotees of all faiths. Outside the church is a bizarre market selling wax models of various body parts. Devotees with ailing limbs buy the appropriate model and solemnly place it on the altar before the Virigin Mary in the belief that she will effect a miraculous cure. A deserted Portuguese fort, Castella de Aguada, on a hill, offers spectacular views of the sea and the hinterland. Bandra’s plush Pali Hill locality, which has the villas of several Hollywood stars, draws crowds of star-struck Indian tourists. Its other attractions are the seafront promenades at Bandstand and Carter Road, especially popular with local youth. Also situated on the seafront is a small Koli fishing village.