Trick or treat
For mothers and fathers in their late thirties or early forties, October often passes with a lingering fear of their child begging to host a party; not the birthday kind but for Halloween. Which child would pass on a chance to dress up in costumes, hear some spooky stories and share a haunting evening with friends? So, if you are bogged down with such persistent requests, respond to them positively and mould an evening so that your child and their friends enjoy the time and end up learning something from it along the way.
First up, invite all your child's friends. As its way too late to send in invitations by snail mail you can easily create an e-card inviting the children through their parent's email accounts. Select a few young adults – elder siblings and cousins would fall in the category – who are good with children and ask to keep the evening free on the fixed day.
To create the right ambience, make sure all invitees come dressed in costumes; that includes the young adults accompanying the children. To ensure that children or adults are adequately 'spooked' for the evening, keep someone in charge of painting their faces. This can easily be done by someone with an interest in make-up or painting. Can be taken up as a challenge as well!
A Halloween party works well on the rooftop but it can also be done inside the apartment or the house. As rampant power shortages may act as a hindrance to the whole affair, opt for kerosene lamps and switch the electrical lights off. Be discerning about the music. The Internet can be a lifesaver in choosing the right tune for the evening.
The party can be a good platform to teach the children about scary folk legends. Go through the shelves of PBS, Words n' Pages or bookshops at Aziz Supermarket to select the right title and read out excerpts of Bengali ghost stories. Alternatively ask a medical student to bring a set of real bones and you could give the children a real life glimpse of medical anatomy classes!
Lastly, what good is a Halloween party without 'trick or treat'? Ask a friendly neighbour -- or a relative who lives close by -- to help you out with that segment of the evening. And lastly, serve the food.
Before the toddlers leave, make sure they have a spooky goody bag for them to take back home.
By Mannan Mashhur Zari
Under a different sky
For the love of kerosene
By Iffat Nawaz
Should I write about you? And how the setting sun burns you purple, and how you are looking back, back and further back, to find reasons to call your life a good life, and the people you know good friends, and forgive the people you hate? Should I write about you? Or should I write about her? What's that? You say you don't remember her? Let me remind you. Let me tell you a few stories.
An old town house with many arms and legs had once eaten up a little girl with soft curls and softer cheeks. It was mid afternoon and the rooms were being painted. The painters came in and out, going through doors after doors, spilling bits and pieces of things only painters carry. When the painters had taken a lunch break and the house and little girl's family, who lived in the house, was also ready for their afternoon indulgence, the little girl was called upon and unfound. Her mother searched for her high and low, scared that the painters might have stolen her little one; she ran around the house with fear stricken legs.
Finally she found her, under the bed, kneeling over like she was performing an extended sejda. When her mother looked closely she saw her little daughter dipping her tiny nose into something. It was a little puddle of water, wait no, it was more than water, it was kerosene. The little girl was sniffing on a little puddle of kerosene that the painters spilled between their sloppy entrances and exits. The three-year-old eyes looked high when her mother dragged her out from under the bed. Her mother laughed in relief; so what if her little one was a little huffer showing early signs of inhalant abuse? At least she was found.
She wore a white kurta with churidars and a white orna, which she repeatedly fixed. Around the neck, or should it be on the side, maybe draped like Madhubala? She finally put it around her head, it was a milad, her house had one of those every month, let it be for a special occasion or none. She sat by the window and looked around the room at faces that looked particularly pious at that moment. She tried to get the attention of her mom and then her aunt with the subtle gestures of her eyes but all she got back were mini scoldings through rigid looks. She sighed and held on to the bottle of rose water that she was to sprinkle on everyone when that time came in the prayers. She looked out the window and from somewhere not so far away a whiff of kerosene hit her nose. At that moment she wished the bottle she was clinching was full of kerosene and not rose water so she could spray everyone with a hint of the smell she loved so much, better than rose water, purer than perfumes.
What? You say that's your story? Really, you are she? Maybe. Maybe I mix up a lot these days. What? You say you still look for dark corners? You heart still burns you say? Mine too… for dark corners and for the love of kerosene.