October is a month of transition; preparatory of no season, pertaining to no weather, just hangs in there to let go off the monsoons or fall, giving way to winter. And it may be for giving the month a reason to exist, that it homes festivities that are celebrated around the globe. Back home, it is the fanfare of navratri/dusherra/durga pooja. As a child I would look forward to those delicious sundals, dress up for kolattam and admire the niceties of golu.
This year too I was part of the fête, but of a mixed nature. My Sunday had begun with some experiments at making the sweet kesari. It was followed by efforts to replicate the customs for appeasing the goddess of knowledge saraswati. Her blessings were perfunctorily obtained by engraving all the known alphabets on a plate of raw rice with my finger tip. Like a novice, I had even tried out the few new tamil letters that I have picked up.
Contrastingly, the day had unwound over a finger chips lunch and ended with a huge cotton candy. We had decided to indulge in the do of Halloween, the navaratri counterpart of the west. And unlike the festival back home, Halloween is all about eerie awakenings, costume parties and making everything scary a happy ending. To enjoy the celebrations at its best, we headed to the town of Salem, following our little rendezvous with vijayadasami.
Salem is known for its association with the sixteenth century witchcraft trials, where the magic of broom stick dames and haunted house sagas come alive. The five blocks in the center of the town, were buzzing like a fair and the sunny crisp weather made it all the more fun. Having behaved like characteristic tourists, clicking snaps and posing for many, we had interlarded to taking the tour of the many little attractions the town harbored.
It began with the dark dungeons of the ‘Frankenstein’s laboratory’, where the monsters in black robes keep popping their devil heads through the winding horror movie styled alley and I had screamed and screeched myself silly. The next sojourn was the museums which told the history of the town and the witchcrafts through wax models. We also got to experience the ‘casting of spells’ first hand through a witching hour gimmick, put up by the practicing witches of the town.
Apart from these ghostly partaking, what I loved the most was the cobble stoned streets, lined with vividly decorated shops. They housed many ‘charming’ ingredients, witch hoods, pebbles, perfumes of unknown flavors, dry flowers, moonlit wall hangings, carved mirrors, mmystery chocolates and everything of a magical world. For many a moment it was like reliving wizard of Oz or incepts from Hogwarts.
I picked up a few souvenirs and made up my mind to come dressed the next year to blend into this little world away from mundane life. Before we knew, it was dusk and time to leave. It was with contended hearts and a fun day to remember we headed to the muggle world.