One of the one per cent in 13 million.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is her first visit to a Church, but she is sleeping through it. On the warm morning of February 27, 2010, Sarah Rose is being baptized in the Cathedral Church of the Redemption. Her mother, Jaya Bhattacharji, too was baptized here. It was the Viceroy’s Church, built of red sandstone and Burmese teak on what is now known as the President’s Estate in Lutyens’ Delhi.
One of the only two churches in the city to have an organ, the cathedral’s prayer hall is presently silent. The sunlight, coming in through the narrow recess openings of the thick stonewalls, is making the dark chamber feel mystical. Over 50 relatives and friends of Ms Rose have gathered around the church’s baptismal font. Father, Jacob. Mother, Jaya. Grandmothers, Adelaide and Shobhana. Grandfather, Romesh. Aunt Rebecca. Uncle Chetan. Cousins, Keya, Prathna and Anugraha.
Almost 50 days old, Ms Rose is looking exactly what her name means in Hebrew – Princess. She is dressed in white. “I designed it myself,” says the mother. The silk frock, with smocking, has a yoke collar with long sleeves and a white satin ribbon at the waist. The frock is trimmed with narrow white lace made into roses.
It is too early to talk about Ms Rose’s behavioural traits but she laughs a lot and cries only when hungry or wet. She has also begun to gurgle and coo. “Sarah has a strong personality,” her mother says. One evening when she was five-weeks-old, Ms Rose’s father returned home from work and started smothering her with kisses. The daughter looked fiercely at her dad and then with her little hand she sternly pushed his face away from her. Both parents burst into laughter. Jaya and Jacob had first met on the Internet and later fell in love over passionate arguments on the merits of William Dalrymple’s book The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857.
” I feel amazed that I am partly responsible to have created such a perfect and beautiful daughter as Sarah,” says Ms Rose’s father. ” I continue to marvel at this miracle which Jaya and I have wrought.”
To her mother’s relief, Ms Rose doesn’t object as she is passed on to Father Dennis Lal’s arms. In the hushed dignity of the wood-panelled cathedral, the “determined young lady” is inducted into her family’s religion. Perhaps overwhelmed by the moment, Ms Rose’s grandfather, the family photographer, stops clicking his camera and watches Father Lal sprinkle the holy water on her face. The priest then makes a sign of cross on her forehead. All is quiet as he intones:
… We thank you for making this child your own this day through baptism, by giving her new birth in water and the Holy Spirit, and making her a member of the body of Christ…
Later, while talking to The Delhi Walla, Ms Rose’s mother says, “I want Sarah to grow up to be secure, confident and a good human being.”
[This is the 14th portrait of the Mission Delhi project]
Late morning in the Cathedral Church of the Redemption
With grandmother Shobhana
Mother, Jaya, posing between childhood friends
With (Grandmother) Adelaide, (father) Jacob, (cousin) Keya, (mother) Jaya
Ms Rose’s well-wishers
Ready for the baptism
Best wishes for Ms Rose