Edited by: Advaita Singh
October is ending, and apparently Spooky Season is here. From Cleopatra cosplays to Sex-Education costumes and scary DIY decorations, social media is flooded with anything and everything Halloween. As much as we like to believe that we are the only, or at least the most, dominant users of social media, we are not. Our parents inadvertently see the same advertisements and posts that we do. This is why, when I called my mother today, she asked me, much to my annoyance, if I was participating in the adult fancy dress competition as well.
It is the duty of an Indian parent to persistently be disappointed in their children, so I didn’t lie. I told her that I was dressing up as a Snowman. A couple of sighs later, my mom asked me what this festival was about. She surely was not expecting me to just Google it, but I did exactly that. Very much like my peers, I dress up on Halloween without knowing why. With an utter lack of shame, I read aloud an article that stated that Halloween is a Christianised Celtic festival, wherein people don scary costumes to ward off evil spirits. Why? Because October 31st is considered to be the day on which the boundaries between the land of the living and the land become blurred. She understood the concept of the festival, and surprisingly drew parallels to an Odiya version of Diwali called ‘Bada Badua Daka.’ in which we pray to connect with the dead during the same time as Halloween. She said that the most prominent difference between the two is that we don’t look like clowns while celebrating it. She had a point — one which I couldn’t disagree with.
Submission and no further response from the child is usually an Indian parent’s cue not to engage with them anymore, and to leave the room with an air of superiority. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this time. My mother possesses more virtues of an Ashokan student than I do — she pondered and reflected on this new piece of information that she received from me and bombarded me with insights despite there being no participation grade present here. She said, “I understand Halloween and why Westerners would celebrate it, but why are Indians so preoccupied with it? And if it is the case that it is a fun festival to celebrate, why is it that only entitled kids from tier-1 cities participate in its festivities? What does it say about the festival and what does it say about you celebrating that, Ragalika?”
Spellbound, I looked at my mother, and wondered how in the world have I managed to transmit so much Ashokan jargon into her brain. However, I had to snap back out of it because my mother needed answers and time was of the essence. Without further ado, I broke into a rant that carefully included points that confirmed my mother’s point of view because I still needed my mother to buy me Diwali clothes. I said that Halloween, as a festival, has nothing wrong with it but the prevalence of its celebration in the elite communities of India goes to show how obsessively upper-class Indians want to identify and feel closer to the West. The idea of modernity in India is synonymous with that of the West, and since the Indian festivals that are similar to Halloween do not fit into the vocabulary used by them, these festivals are not considered trendy and hence, not very prevalent among the upper-classes. Additionally, the rich don’t even need a deep understanding or reason to celebrate Halloween, they just need a reason to spend their surplus income which they most definitely cannot spend on orphanages, but on hosting big Halloween bashes with insane pumpkin carvings and Bloody Mary shots. Life without this would be so tragic for them that Amelia from Bandra would have to tweet about how her life feels incomplete without trick or treating in a gated community of Westernised Indians.
By the end of my rant/lecture/showcase of my critical thinking skills, my mother was more than impressed, which translates to not one but two Diwali outfits. Criticising Halloween definitely worked out well for me. Here’s hoping that you guys go ahead and do things worth criticising and like the true Ashokan I am, I will be extremely opportunistic and make my mom buy more things for me by having an intellectual discussion about my insufferable peers.
Happy Halloween, folks!