Talespin Children

Ghostly goings-on

Ankit, Natasha, Varun and Sachin began planning for Halloween at the beginning of October.

“Let’s make our own costumes and masks for Halloween and then guess who each one is,” Natasha suggested.

For a few moments, there was silence, then Ankit piped up, “Maybe we could do our costumes in pairs…?”

“There are only the four of us, there is no fun in that,” grunted Sachin.

“We can guess who the others in the blocks are then,” said Ankit.

“We can get everyone involved in that — have a competition!” exclaimed Natasha.

Double the fun

Holi, Eid, Dussehra, Diwali, Halloween, Christmas and other festivals were celebrated with great gusto in their gated society. Now, in these pandemic times, with everyone behind masks, Halloween would be even more fun.

“That’s another great idea from you in five minutes. What did you have for lunch? Genius jelly?” exclaimed Varun.

“Ha-ha! I’m just naturally smart!” said Natasha, tossing her hair. “And now, I’m going to start work on my costume. I have some great ideas.”

Through October, they continued to meet regularly, each one trying to be more mysterious than the other.

“Why don’t we ask the society’s entertainment committee to sponsor a prize for the best costume?” asked Ankit.

“That’s a good idea!” said Sachin.

“But, if we suggest everyone joins in and grown-ups get involved, then, who will stock up on treats for us?” murmured Varun, thinking of all the goodies he would collect.

“So, what do we do?” asked Ankit, trying not to appear eager. “Dump the idea?”

Natasha nodded. “Maybe it’s better to dump it. If we get the entertainment committee involved for Halloween, it will distract them from Diwali — and you know Diwali’s just a couple of days later.” The others agreed.

“Less pressure,” said Varun. “I don’t have to compete with dozens of kids. I just have to disguise myself from you three…”

On D-Day

On Halloween evening, four figures met under the banyan tree in the park as they usually did.

“You didn’t even try!” Natasha and Sachin said together as they inspected Varun’s wizard’s robes and Harry Potter glasses. All he had done was substitute his regular spectacles for the round ones and wear a cloak and pointed hat — and, of course, a mask.

“And you can’t keep yourselves from talking,” said Varun, “so it’s easy to guess the scary mummy is Sachin. And your Shrek head is pretty original, Natasha.”

All three of them turned to the fourth figure, silently standing with them in a white sheet from head to toe.

“Your silence is your weapon, huh, Ankit?” said Sachin. “But your red and yellow sneakers give you away.”

He pulled Ankit’s sheet and they set out to ring doorbells and accost late evening walkers with a ‘Trick or Treat’ demand.

Collecting treats

Usually, Ankit was the quietest of their group, but now the costume made him bold and loud. He made his demands in a gruff, unrecognisable voice, as he held out his basket. Soon all of them had a large collection of cupcakes, cookies, chocolate bars, fruit, laddoos and other goodies. Some, they popped into their mouths immediately, but the rest they stuffed into the pockets of Ankit’s sheet costume. He had been the only one to make provision for storage, it seemed.

“Next year, I’m going to stitch pockets into my cloak!” vowed Varun.

“Are you planning to be a wizard every year?” asked Sachin incredulously. “Where’s your imagination?”

It was late by the time they completed their round of the eight blocks and all of them were tired — and quite stuffed. “We’ll collect our shares tomorrow!” called Natasha to Ankit, as they made their way back to their homes.

The next day, it was late when the three friends met at Ankit’s door and rang the bell. His mother came out. “Ankit’s sleeping,” she said. “He’s not feeling well.”

“Did he eat too much? Did he finish up all the treats he brought back with him last evening?” asked Varun, disappointed that their huge cache was gone.

“What treats?” asked Ankit’s mother. “Ankit didn’t have any treats — he was ill all of yesterday and didn’t go out at all!”

“But…but…” sputtered Varun, “The ghost costume … his red and yellow sneakers…”

“Who was that?” asked Sachin.

Natasha whispered fearfully, “Who took Ankit’s place?”

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 5:59:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/ghostly-goings-on/article37019009.ece

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