India celebrates a total of 287 festivals per year. This includes the festival of Making Up Statistics that is celebrated by our politicians during campaigning, comedians while writing columns, but never cricket statisticians. CC: Mohandas Menon.
But 287 festivals is fantastic because that equates to 287 feasts per year. And, let’s be honest, celebrating our respective imaginary gods is all a ruse for us to be gluttons. I’m secular because I’m a foodie. Every festival is basically a celebration of our Gods of Zomato.
And the cuisine for each festival is so varied because the origins of our festivals are global — England, Portugal, Persia, Iran and even those festivals imported from India to India such as Diwali and 220 others. Then there is Halloween — the only festival whose popularity in India was imported from the country of Hollywood.
Yes, some Indians do celebrate Halloween as it’s traditional All Hallows Eve for remembering their dead. But a majority are honouring the American invasion of India through Star Movies, HBO and torrent websites.
Our love for this festival that half of us don’t understand is again cuisine, that is, the cuisine of ‘daaru’. For most urban, young Indians, Halloween is a day to get drunk, dress promiscuously and get stuck in traffic. Halloween is basically a dress rehearsal for New Year’s Eve.
And that’s the cause for the popularity of the festival — the dearth of Indian festivals that allow the consumption of alcohol. There’s just New Year’s, Christmas and Parsi New Year — which gives you three more reasons to have more Christian and Parsi friends. Some have even started celebrating the Irish festival of St Patrick’s Day for all the three Irish friends we have: Guinness, Jameson and Baileys. We’re even celebrating Oktoberfest — a German festival of beer for all our German friends: Max Mueller, Max Mueller Bhavan and Mad Max Mueller.
There are, of course, minor issues why some Halloween traditions do not work in India:Trick or Treat is when kids dressed in costumes go from door to door asking people for candy. Technically, this is illegal in India because it’s effectively combining child labour and ‘hafta’. And that’s only allowed in Nana Patekar movies.
Carving a pumpkin is a perpetual Halloween tradition. Given the price of pumpkins, no Indian mother would allow her children to carve up kaddu ki sabzi into a scary face. The price itself is the scary face. Add some toor dal as the Pumpkin’s pimples and the bill could give your mother a heart attack.
Dressing up as scary creatures is a challenge, because the scariest creatures in India are not vampires, ghouls or zombies; it’s the moral police. And no one wants to party with them. Including them.
(Aside: as a human male, I love this day’s costumes, especially the penchant of gorgeous Indian women to wear about as much clothes as Eve in the Garden of Eden. Last year, I saw a friend dressed as Margaret Thatcher, which would have been impressive for her political knowledge except for the minor fact that this Thatcher had more cleavage than Hate Story 3. I’m sure the Iron Lady of Britain would have faced considerably less opposition to her policies if she had borrowed the costume.)
Celebration of dead saints and martyrs is the real reason behind Halloween. This is redundant in India since we already celebrate our dead saints and martyrs by naming every road, bylane, tile and tree leaf after them. We remember our dead daily, whenever we ask for directions.
Decorating your house as a haunted attraction is also a time-honoured tradition. But in the Indian context, it would not work because, with our crumbling bricks, power cuts, water cuts, dengue, leptospirosis and visiting relatives — it already gives us a feeling of being in The Conjuring.
Personally, I’ll never understand why we celebrate Halloween in India. But I’m a fan of people getting drunk, getting silly and having fun. So, even if they don’t remember dead relatives, that’s OK. Just retitle the day as what it truly is: Happy Daaruween.
Sorabh Pant is a comedian and the founder of East India Comedy. He’s also the author of the novel, Under Delhi. You can follow him on Twitter @hankypanty.