I’ve always loved Halloween. I play carols while making spooky decorations – It’s a tradition with me. Unfortunately I come from a country that probably fears festivals like these. I mean, imagine walking around like Mohini or Noorie, people would be dropping dead by the dozens. Apart from a few metros, I think hardly any people have even heard of it. I’d like to think I was a pioneer of sorts, you know, celebrating it when no one else knew of its existence. It’s history making stuff really.
But here’s the thing about being in India, you have Dasara (the triumph of good over evil) in the beginning of October, then you have Kannada Rajyotsava (forming of Karnataka as a state) which is on the 1st of November, then Diwali (the festival of lights). After that we have Ramzan. Then Christmas and New Years. We know how to celebrate and as students, October-December are the best months in the year.
I learnt about Halloween when I was 11. My English teacher was telling us ghost stories and about how in Scotland, the evening before all saints/souls day (1st/2nd November) people used to greet each other “All Hallows Even” – hence the festival’s name. Apparently they used to carve turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory. The immigrants to North America used native pumpkins instead because they were more easily grown, and larger and easier to carve. I don’t know if it was the stories, the customs or the concept that first captured my imagination. I came home and whispered these stories to my siblings. They were just as enthralled as I was.
When I went to my room that night, I made cards for my siblings – ‘Meet me at my room at midnight on the 31st of October. Don’t tell anyone. Disguise yourselves’. I think the thrill during that time was not just in making costumes with whatever we could find around the house but in staying past our bedtimes, making sure our parents were asleep and then sneaking out. We’d then sit around a single candle light and whisper and laugh all night. We’d pass around one drink like a peace cigar and talk nonsensical things till it was time to sneak back into our rooms.
I carved out a watermelon and wore it as a hat once. I was, of course, Mojo Jojo. I was also Wednesday Adams, A Viking, Pocahontas, Tomb Raider and a host of other ridiculous characters. We’d fall asleep when our parents said it was bed time but we’d put alarm clocks to wake us up for our midnight adventure. My sister had a little more trouble waking up once she fell asleep. While my brother and I were busy putting on our costumes, she’d be mumbling in her sleep.
We’d try various ways of waking Pea up and once she did, she’d look exasperated at our cribbing that she never made an effort and she would reply:
(While wearing my mum’s nightdress) “Whaaaaat? I’m pretending to be Mamma this Halloween!”
“Whaaaaat? I’m sleeping beauty this Halloween!”
(Pulling the blanket over her head) “Whaaaaat? I’m the ghost from Scooby Doo!”
The last Halloween, she put on a green jumper and darkened one of her eyes.
“Whaaaat? I’m a black eyed pea!”