Thanks to FDI (foreign direct influence), I now know that Halloween is celebrated on the last day of October. Two years ago, I was in New Jersey during this period and got an insider’s view of the Halloween tamasha. It made me conclude that this so called ‘fun’ festival brings on more sorrow than joy for young children.
“What do you want to be for Halloween?” The child’s mother posed the serious question to the four-year-old. I guess at that age the brain does not quite register the difference between ‘want and want to be. “I want vanilla ice-cream with lots of streamers on it!” The little one replied excitedly. The mother reframed her question. “What do you want to dress up as for Halloween” she said, “remember last year you wore a white frock and wings and became a fairy?”
“I want to be fairy!” the child echoed.
“No. You can’t be the same. You have to think of something else,” the mother said firmly. I didn’t see why the costume should not be repeated when it didn’t matter to the child. I guess it mattered to the parents.
In the meantime the father of the child was busy reading up from the Net. “Listen,” he said, “this is from a psychologist. He says Halloween is an opportunity to live out one’s fantasy or master a deep fear. So we should pick something that is meaningful to her. ” There were arguments, suggestions and counter suggestions. The decision finally got forced upon them as they grabbed the only suitable costume left on the supermarket shelf.
Over the next couple of days, the child was mentally prepared to don the costume. Aided by pictures and stories, Anika was given a crash course on honeybees, but nothing had prepared the parents for the challenge of assembling the various parts and fixing them in place. The effort tested the child’s endurance to the limits and her cooperation was secured with hefty bribes and mean threats. The parents repeatedly told her how much fun it would be to go door to door, along with the neighbourhood kids and collect chocolates.
Indeed it was great fun and the joy that was there to see on the child’s face when she got back from the rounds, made it seem like it was all worth it. “Look!” she said opening out her bag, “I got sooo many chocolates!”
I was taken aback by the volume of her collection. “What will you do with all of this?” I asked the parents. “There is a charity box in our office. I will drop them off tomorrow,” said the mother.
Anika’s eyes went wide with fear and she hugged the bag to her chest. “No,” she screamed and made a dash for her room. The mother reacted with commendable alacrity and managed to confiscate the bee’s ‘hive’ in time.
It was mayhem for the next half an hour. Eventually the parents won and the child’s sobs subsided as she dozed off with fatigue. As I watched the defeated little thing in yellow and black, lying by a pair of crumpled wings, it occurred to me that the parents couldn’t have picked a more appropriate theme for Halloween. After all, bees raised by humans don’t get to enjoy the honey they collect. That is a prerogative of the wild ones.