Trick, treat, tears

| Updated on October 30, 2020

When evil spills out of costumes, is there any point in painting fangs on your face?

Dear Editor,

First let me wish you a Happy Halloween — India’s most recently appropriated foreign festival. As if 36 festivals and 16 public holidays weren’t enough for us, we now have an ancient Celtic festival that requires us to wear costumes to ward off imported ghosts.

At the risk of sounding culturally protectionist, I must point out that we have enough home-grown bhoots to deal with. I’m sure you would agree that Covid-19 is one such spectre that looms large. Most of us have learned to wear masks and wash our hands, and yet we can’t distance ourselves from the company of boisterous young people who are out socialising with a vengeance. Last night, when I politely told a neighbour to turn down Himesh Reshammiya’s nasal voice, which was piercing out of his house party straight into my skull, the drunken fellow shouted back with an “Aunty, chill”. He reminded me that it was a “post-Covid-19” party to celebrate the fact that our apartment complex’s load of active cases was reducing. Who needs Halloween when we live next door to demons such as these?

I switched on the news to channel my anger elsewhere — and found the anchor thumping his desk in an effort to convince his primetime viewership that Hathras was a conspiracy. How could the country’s most horrific rape and murder of a Dalit woman from the Uttar Pradesh town go into the realm of conspiracy and make-believe when there is enough evidence in the public domain testifying to the brutal crime? Who needs a Voldemort costume when you can spend a lot less to look like India’s most polarising and eardrum-bursting TV journalist?

In the middle of all this, there are the horrors of poverty, hunger, climate change, illnesses, unemployment, indebtedness, misgovernance, crime, violence and more. Dear Editor, when evil spills out of costumes, is there any point in painting fangs on your face?

Earlier this week, my school-going daughter was instructed by her class teacher to dress up for a virtual Halloween party. ‘Tis the season of fright, she said, making big eyes at me before asking for a costume allowance. I showed her the front page of a newspaper which featured headlines about Delhi’s hellish levels of air pollution, a senior cop who abused his authority and molested young girls, and the rise of the post-Covid-19 urban poor who are pawning gold to pay their children’s school fees because they lost their jobs in the pandemic. It’s the season of fright, indeed. Why not go dressed as a newspaper — the harbinger of bad news? Or, better still, as WhatsApp, where bad news goes 10 notches higher and comes coloured with opinion and misinformation, creating chains of ignorant fools? I nudged her to scroll through some of the fresh b*llsh*t lying unopened in my unread messages. One post urged me to back the ruling government, saying it was the way I could save my family from becoming extinct in the pandemic. You could call yourself The Devil Wears WhatsApp News, I said, trying not to sound too excited about saving myself a few bucks.

She scowled at me, but I later found her posing a query to Alexa: What are some costume ideas to look like WhatsApp?

And that’s when I decided to sit back and have a happy Halloween.

Yours ghoulishly,

Ghost who talks

Published on October 30, 2020

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