Happy Halloween! This has been one western import in my life I’ve enjoyed. I was introduced to Halloween in my residential colony, in 2007. That was the first time I went trick-or-treating and realised I needed more of Halloween in my life. How else would I get all the candy my mother would never buy for me in my lifetime? It was beyond me how this was a parent-approved event. I mean imagine the many dentist trips they’d have to make after Halloween.
I think I was always meant to love horror, the concept of Halloween fascinated me so much. You got to wear costumes and go get candy from every house. That was the only time I didn’t mind ringing strangers’ doorbells. I lived in quite a big community and on any normal day you wouldn’t be able to tell that the majority of the population living here were kids, but come out on Halloween and you realise the streets are overflowing with kids. All of them will be in their fancy dresses, tiny monsters running around with baskets or pillowcases as their tired parents herd them from house to house.
Halloween was my excuse to get candy, for my sister it was a game of dress-up. She never went trick-or-treating herself but she would put together creative costumes for me. We were a pro-team because she’d been dressing me up ever since I could walk, with all that she could find around the house. When she got a baby sister she got a doll too, she loved wrapping me in blankets using clips and props to make me look like characters in her head.
In 2007 I was an alien, in 2008 I was Cleopatra, in 2009 I was Hermione from Harry Potter, that was my final year of trick-or-treating for two reasons, one, I was 13 and two, because my sister was going to be extremely busy in her final year at college preparing for her postgraduate studies that would take her to the US. Halloween was not the same without her, and I didn’t know what to be on Halloween without her. Also, the age-limit to trick-or-treating was 14.
While it lasted I enjoyed it, after that, I was only distributing candy. We never put up decorations because Halloween was only a few days from another festival Diwali, which would bring all the strings of light in our house out. So candy was our only contribution to Halloween.
When she was around my sister would spend hours on my costumes, it was not easy considering I was impatient and wouldn’t stand still. Unfortunately, Halloween caught on after her teenhood so she never got to go trick-or-treating. I would come back with a bag filled with candy, to my mother’s horror and to my sister and Dad’s delight. My sister and I would judge the candy, sorting the fancy ones from the boring ones. Imported chocolates were always appreciated. That candy haul would last us months because my mother would regulate how much we’d have.
Halloween this time will be less glamorous, as I’ve been barred from watching horror. I cannot watch a horror movie. I’ll be spending my day getting my travel documents in order and will probably spend the night lying on the couch scrolling through Instagram. Even though Halloween was a cultural import, my family embraced it to humour my excitement. They would take pictures of me in my costumes, allow me to stay out trick-or-treating beyond my curfew and agreed that if I was going to go to people’s houses and bringing back candy, it was a must they also entertain every kid that would come ring our doorbell.
That’s how culture works, I remember during most Diwalis as is customary I was to go give boxes of sweets to the neighbours, and it didn’t matter where these neighbours were from, sometimes from Europe, sometimes America, I would ring on their doorbell and say, “Happy Diwali!” and hand them a box of sweets. They would be surprised and since they weren’t prepared would say, “I am sorry but I don’t think we have sweets to give you.” But that’s the thing, my mother didn’t send me across the street to bring back something in return. So I would tell them that it’s ok and that I hoped they enjoy the sweets.
Culture is a beautiful thing, which can bring about dramatic changes to our daily lives. It’s not exclusive. There is something universal about horror and magic, I don’t think there is a place on this planet that doesn’t have some sort of folklore. The content of culture remains dramatic everywhere. I always liked Halloween even though it was a lot of effort. I wouldn’t say I completely understood the concept, but I enjoyed the perks of celebrating it. Sometimes I wish we also put up fake cobwebs, and jack-o-lanterns on our porch, but my mother being practical would logically ask, “What would we do with the pumpkins after?”
You don’t need to know people to celebrate with them, and that’s the beauty of it. We don’t remember every kid we gave candy to, or every house we went to on Halloween. But at that moment when that candy is exchanged, there is a familiarity. Here’s hoping this Halloween gives many people a toothache.