What Would A Hypothetical Hindustani Halloween Look Like?
Spooktober is coming to its close and at its butt end we have Halloween waiting to greet us, unless you are among the huge chunk of Indians who don’t give a spooky fuck about it. Halloween to most of us has been something which Ben 10, Phineas & Ferb, or maybe something the Dunphy family celebrated and which the 99th precinct turned into a heist. There were no Halloween special episodes of Chhota Bheem, sadly.
Culturally speaking, Halloween to us is like Rachel to Gunther - right there but beyond grasp. In our country, getting a holistic Halloween experience is not easy.
But what if there was an alternate timeline where Halloween was an Indian thing? There will surely be a lot of Sherlock, Squid Games, GOT, etc. costumes, but we are more interested in things that scream "India". Here are some characters you may run into when you are out trick-or-treating on the streets of India, and some actual underlying horrors.
If you have ever killed or aided the killing of a snake then we are sorry to inform you, you will run into the vengeful Naagin. The myth goes like this: If a random snake undergoes a century of tapasya, it gets the ability to shapeshift into any living being. Stories often portray a Nagin seeking revenge on those who killed her husband and over the years, there have been many iterations of the story, from the 1976 movie 'Nagin' to the thriller, daily soap 'Naagin'.
You may run into a few naagins on your way to candies and if it is a couple costuming, maybe a sapera will walk around too. (Pairing India with snake charmers is way too stereotypical but it's Halloween!). It is unlikely that they will find poor CGI that TV channels use to make their Naagins scary so you will probably just find Mouni-Roy-Naagins, and not the scary ones. Since this is in India, then there will be a group of entitled-testosterone-driven dudes asking the Naagins to dance. Thanks entitled-testosterone-driven dudes for adding horrors to our Halloween… and the world in general.
The Naagins will be well adorned but not Manjulikas. They will be classical dancing around the neighborhood with their clumsily wrapped saree and messed up hair. What makes her the perfect for Indo-Halloween is how easily recognizable she is and the excuse of acting crazy around the neighborhood. Bhool Bhulaiyaa was a beautiful movie, especially because of Rajpal Yadav’s Chote Pandit but the chan-chan of paayals sure gave us nightmares.
In the movie, if you remember, Avni is seemingly possessed by the ghost of Manjulika but it turns out that she is not possessed but obsessed by Manjulika. What makes Bhool Bhulaiyaa truly scary is not the ghost but its absence.
Let us take a little detour: We can consider the movie to be an allegory of how ideology works for example, Avni’s possession. Ideological possession is scarier than paranormal possession because unlike the ghost-bana-dost situations, ideologies possess millions of people at once. Avni’s obsession with Manjulika's story parallels how we often take some stories too seriously. Stories here mean a specific telling of history. A telling that clearly makes someone or some communities the villain across history.
Like Siddharth in the movie, these “villains” are not quite the people who committed the crime if at all there was a crime but the ideologically possessed Manjulika's often don’t realize it until it is too late. Ahem Germany ahem. Beware of Chote Pandit, beware of Manjulika. They really exist.
Speaking of stories, if you run into a dude carrying another dude on his shoulders, they are probably Vikram and Beetal. For context, Betaal was a spirit whom King Vikram carried on his back to a tantric. His journey was made sisyphean by Betaal's condition that he will only let himself be carried to the tantric if Vikram fails to answer his questions. Vikram, being a smarty pants, suffers from success and answers the question correctly and Betaal flies back to his tree. This happens 24 times. If you are interested in this story, you can check out a really old show which was based on this story.
If you have watched the show, here is a question for you: Why in the spook was Betaal so creepy? If our imaginary Halloween ever happens and I see some Vikrams and Betaals, someone will have to carry our fainted arse around. ( See what we did there? ) This show was creepy for no reason and this is the kind of stuff that ruins your childhood.
You know what else ruined our childhoods? Makdee, the 2002 movie with the cringy song . Ugh, it was too creepy, we're still traumatized so we hope not to run into a long-fingered chudail on our trick-or-treating route.
Kaala Jadu or Black Magic has always been a popular motif in desi stories. People are surely going to take black magic-related characters out on Halloween. You may run into Kaala Bandar aka Monkey Man. You may remember him from 'Delhi 6.' But according to a myth, he was apparently a tantrik dude who turned into a monkey to impress his wife, no kink-shaming. He then failed to transform back into a dude because the enchanted water which was supposed to do it was spilled by his wife who naturally got scared when she saw a black monkey. Reject humanity, embrace monkey.
Another uRbAn LeGenD associated with black magic is that of a chudail who came to people’s homes asking for food and then killed them. So, if any pale and weak old woman asks you for food, RUN.
To keep her away, people put handprints on their homes because ...science. It is very similar to the folk legend Naale Ba which roughly translates to come tomorrow. So, people of the village from the folk legend wrote “Naale Ba” on their walls to keep evil spirits out. The movie 'Stree' was based on this folk tale too. Writing “O stree kal aana” and leaving some hand prints on your walls will make really good Halloween decorations.
There will be a lot of cool things in our hypothetical Indian Halloween, including all the western stuff (is anything really “Western” or “Eastern” after globalization). We may see characters from mythology, like Hanuman or Ravan whom we already see during Dussehra. There will surely be a lot of teenagers cosplaying Marvel, DC and Anime characters and little kids dressed as Chhota Bheem, Doraemon or some weird youtube kids stuff they watch. Uncles will probably cosplay Modi or something, or maybe they will just pay for everything and not participate. We will get a lot of Halloween special episodes of daily soaps, imagine a Balika Vadhu and Goosebumps crossover. Alright, that is enough wishful thinking for today.