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Holy Pumpkins!!

November 3, 2009 2 comments

Time to fess up. Yes, I’ve been promiscuous. I’ve been seduced by a few beauties, developed an intimacy with them with a just vague understanding of what they’re all about and then discarded them in an egregious embrace of the use-and-throw culture we all know and universally seem to love. Not a single attempt to understand, to discover the inner meaning, to build a lasting relationship. Sigh… there’ll be hell to pay (and enter, endure?) at the pearly gates, I’m sure.

OK – I’ve titillated your imagination enough – I’m talking about *words* you filthy-minded louts!! I’ve used words without really understanding them, is what I’m saying :-). But… strike one word from this list of one night stands! For I now finally know what the word “surreal” means. I’ve used surreal without ever realizing what surreal means – rather surreal that a self-confessed word-nerd can confess to such a terrible crime, right?

It’s the experience of witnessing Halloween in India that finally cleared a few of the cobwebs from the largely empty upper chamber. Whodathunkit!! Halloween in India?! Yes sir – as the brothers Merriam or even Noah Webster might have said, the event was certainly “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream”. Surreal, you might say, if you’re fond of condensing a sentence into one word. I certainly did say that. But more on that a little later.

For those unfamiliar with Bangalore – a quick 360 degree view: There’s a south (that I identify myself with) populated with dosa devotees, a nerdy north (mistakenly) laying claim to a truer-bluer-than-thou Bangalore-ness over the south, a west I have very little idea about and an east increasingly populated with those reversing the go-west-young-man mantra on its axis. Hardened dosa-lover though I am, I’ve headed east and now live among these erstwhile denizens of San Jose, Sunnyvale and other surrounding towns and a select few like myself from places like Boston on the other coast, who didn’t go far enough west when we were young men and women.

Having spent a large portion of the two years I’ve been back in south Bangalore, I wasn’t quite anticipating that Halloween would be quite the do it turned out to be. In south Bangalore, the few that have heard of Halloween look on it as another evidence of western craziness that should be sniggered at and tolerated. Halloween? Nyet. Not a sign of it anywhere in south Bangalore. I was hence pretty unprepared for the frenzy that Oct. 31st turned out to be, in East Bangalore. The powers-that-be in the apartment complex where I live were obviously better men and women than I. They had anticipated the numbers involved and had organized the event to perfection. The little and not-so-little goons ( and pirates, fairies, princesses, etc.) were segregated by age group and had an age-specific, pre-assigned order in which they would traverse the five apartment towers. The less sporting of residents who wanted out of the madness were given a shot at not being disturbed, by requiring that those residents wanting to hand out candy would advertize their choice by putting up a sign on their doors welcoming trick-o-treaters. There was even a pumpkin-carving contest. Not really sure how that turned out – the local pumpkins are rather small and undernourished compared to the gargantuan specimens that North America seems to produce.

Just how many kids came a-calling? I lost count at about 200 (I’m serious!). They came in droves and droves. I quickly realized that closing the door after each group of kids would be a surefire way to kill my calling-bell. I decided to simply stand outside the door and distribute candy, while eating most of it in a tearing hurry. It was a fantastic social event. The kids had a rollicking time tearing across five towers of apartments with ten floors each. Adults bore it with an admirable, smiling fortitude. And some of us ate more candy than we distributed. In short, a grand old time was had by all. I’m *very* surprised that chocolate makers like Cadbury aren’t pushing to make this an urban-India-wide phenom.

But wait, here comes the gory end. Among the last set of kids to come my way was a LARGE group of teenage girls. All of them funnily enough, dressed in exactly the same way. I foolishly left my foot precariously hanging near my mouth by asking one of them what the costume was all about. “We’re all Bella!”, she said. I should have nodded wisely at this point, handed over the candy and waved goodbye. Instead, the sucker for punishment that I am, I persisted in pushing the size 10 boot firmly down my throat. “Bella??”, I asked, displaying what I thought was an endearing and refreshing inquisitiveness. “From Twilight!!”, she responded, her tone indicating that this should be clear to even the meanest intelligence (i.e. mine). And with more than a touch of insolent impatience, I might add. I was obviously eating up precious candy-collecting minutes  with this display of abject ignorance. The poor girl was struggling – she obviously wanted to kick me in the shin (or maybe higher, you never know) and hotfoot it. One of the other Bellas in the group came to the rescue. With a upward roll of the eyes that only teenage girls seem well-equipped to perform with panache, she swept the crowd onward, saying “Forget it! *He* won’t know”. Surreal? Nope – very painfully real.

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