I think it's high time we shed fear and face facts: Ghosts are poor souls. Devoid of a physical form and any real ambition, they wander in the most dilapidated and worn out places imaginable on this earth. And what do they do? Scare the poor folks who step into their domain, unawares. See, I’m an advocate for ambition. Ghosts then, as it seems, are nothing but useless vagabonds. It almost makes one wonder, what are they doing here? Aren’t ghosts nothing but the remnants of departed souls? Not everyone who die become ghosts, so what's the catch? Truth is, ghosts are but stranded in purgatory. So says Christian scripture. I say, it is a pitiful state they are in. Yes, they’re not to be feared, but pitied.
Halloween is an occasion of remembrance for the dead, the departed and martyred. For those souls who are stranded in purgatory, Halloween serves as an occasion to pass into the Otherworld. It is not unlike the customary “Puja” that is performed in the latter half of the year in our own Indian culture. The purpose is similar and the incentive is to ward off ‘evil spirits’ that inhabit this world, preying on the lives of ordinary folks.
It is here that I would like to direct your attention, dear reader, to another form of “evil spirit’; phantoms who prey on commoners and the weak, just like the spirits we were talking about earlier. But unlike ghosts, they have a physical form and go out of their way to cause harm. If you take a look at recent events across the country, you’ll be able to understand what I’m talking about. The “Hathras Horror” incident that occurred recently, is a downright spine-chilling example of how ghosts, not ethereal, but real ghosts, are all-pervasive in today’s society in India. Humans commit these inhuman acts after all, so we ought to fear humans, no? It is what humans harbor in the black box of their minds that we really ought to fear. The cruelty of humanity knows no bounds. From internalized “trivial” occurrences of bullying to body-shaming, abuse and gaslighting to outright murder, rape and other unspeakable crimes, it is humanity’s evils that need warding off. People fear what they cannot see, they do not know, the abstract, the unknown. This is true. All these events that keep happening frequently, evade the eyes of society as if a passing breeze, when in reality it is more of an impenetrable fog that looms over us.
One thing that immediately jumps to mind when we picture Halloween is the Jack-o’-Lantern. A carved-out pumpkin with a face. Why do people use them? This stems from Irish folklore when the spirit of Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain, was banished from Heaven by God and Hell by the Devil. People use Jack-o’-Lanterns to frighten his wandering spirit, banished from the Otherworld. Similarly, in Bengali culture, people light 14 lanterns to observe “Bhoot Chaturdashi”, an occasion to call on 14 ancestors to protect everyone from evil and darkness. It is a celebration of triumph of good over evil forces. What of our own evils? What ritual would banish Man’s inhuman vice-grip over society? This I do not know.
All I do know is that some humans are no better than ghosts in today’s society, and they haunt us no less than the wandering wraiths. Towards them I feel pity, to be so deviated from a healthy functioning life to cause harm to others, be it mental or physical, superficial or deep. I wish there were a simple solution to ward them off. A pumpkin for the poor lost souls? Yes, please.