A million dollar question that seems to have no satisfactory answers. While around October-November, many cultures pay respects to the departed, there are those who do pray at a different time of the year. Is there a link between that and the fun of disguising and collecting candy or playing tricks on Halloween? There are no conclusive answers or evidence to link these.
In this special edition, we decided to have a bit of fun with imps, pirates, ghost, zombies and spooks brought to you from across the world on Halloween as well as a concluding essay on the reasons we celebrate spooks. Enjoy!
Witchy Halloween: Michael Lee Johnson gives us a magical glimpse into Halloween night. Click here to read.
Pirate Poems: Jay Nicholls brings us fun-filled ‘spooky-gooky’ adventures across the Lemon Sea. Clickhereto read.
The Tickle Imp: Is this horrific, funny or what? Only can be had from the bizarre or genius pen of Rhys Hughes. Click here to read.
The Turret: An eerie story by Niles M Reddick that seems to be right out of an edition of The Most Haunted Houses. Click here to read.
The Return of the Dead: Gita Vishwanath explores spooks in afterlife in a short story. Do we become zombies? Click here to find out.
Ketchup: A scintillating ghost story by Rakhi Pandey, set in the old Residency at Lucknow. Click here to read.
When Two or Three are Gathered: A weird dark tale from Tan Kaiyi where a victims of a virus mutate. What kind of fear is instilled by this situation? Click here to find out.
Singapore is a tiny country connected to the bigger land mass of Malaysia with two causeways. It started out as a small island inhabited by pirates and legends. Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826), a British East Indian administrator, thought it strategic and relocated some of the trade routes through the island. Migrants from many countries merged here — some looked for a better life and some served as coolies and prisoners of the colonials. When Malaya threw off the colonial yoke in 1963, Singapore continued part of the country till it gained sovereignty in 1965.
Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister envisioned a multicultural society where people of different cultures lived as one people. He said in one of his moving speeches in 1965: ” We will prosper, and a multi-racial society will take roots here. And it will do so because when you don’t allow people to play communalism, or racial bigotry, or religious bigotry, you breed an atmosphere of tolerance.”
Fifty-six years later, Prime Minister Brigadier Lee in his National Day speech clearly took the bull by the horns and said, while social media highlights the negative altercations of race and religion, it fails to highlight the positive ones. “Many more happy interactions happen every day but these seldom go viral.” He added these were values that needed to be reinforced with every passing generation. Read to find out what some Singapore residents feel about the outcome of Lee Kuan Yew’s vision, not just of race and religion but of living in a city state which hopes to continue as ” one united people“.
A recent immigrant, Aysha Baqir takes us through the flavours of life here on the tiny island during the lockdown. Click here to read.
The island state continues a home for many immigrants — some came early and some late. As a first generation immigrant, to me the little red dot is Asia’s gateway to the rest of the world. I enjoy its sand and seas very much. We conclude our ensemble with a little poem to the green islet that nestles between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea rippling with notes of harmony…
Anointing with Love
By Mitali Chakravarty
Listen to the swish of the waves.
Feel the breeze whisper caresses.
See the mangroves stretch
their roots above the ground,
in a siesta during lazy sunrises
and sunsets. Murmurs from the
ocean come wafting as
coconut fronds sing in the
fringes where the sand
welcomes the surf. It is a
party at the beach with
differences woven to
harmonise into a melody
sung in tune. A crescendo
that anoints with love.
First published in Daily Star, Bangladesh
In conversation with an American poet,Jared Carter, who has received multiple encomiums like the Walt Whitman Award, the Poets’ Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship and much more. He tells us of his life and how he writes a poem. Click here to read.
Penny Wilkes takes us Down the Path of Nostalgia with a mix of old and new photography and prose and poetry on how a decade after the end of the Second World War, she started her love affair with photography and nature. Clickhere to read
In a tribute to Bollywood legend Dileep Kumar, Ratnottama Sengupta, one of India’s most iconic arts journalists, recollects the days the great actor sprinted about on the sets of Bombay’s studios …spiced up with fragments from the autobiography of Sengupta’s father, Nabendu Ghosh. Click here to read.
The whole nation was watching, Guna was sure. He wished that he was home too, holding Eshwari and Rajeev in his arms. But he had a job to do. After this, there were more bodies to be burned. He pushed the thought out of his head. He had to allow himself a moment of respite, or the corpses’ embers would sear his mind permanently. There was no way to go home for the moment. The bodies were waiting, like unmoving lovers who refused to give up their ashen affections for him.
“How long do you think it’ll take before it disappears into the sea?” Chan asked.
Guna shrugged, observing the receding giant figure. “I don’t care as long as it doesn’t come back.” The shadow was slowly shrinking out from view, soon to be flattened within the eyelid of the horizon. Even though it was far away, Guna could still see the gigantic pores of the thing’s skin. Some of them were opening and closing, gnashing like hungry mouths waiting for their next meal. He shuddered, nearly dropping the can of cold coffee he had in his hand. Guna had seen the greenish plumes ejecting out of those holes, engulfing people and entire districts. Some people collapsed instantly, most died within minutes. The worst were those who survived, crying out for an end to their suffering. There were still many more to be attended to. That was Chan’s job, and it was not one that Guna envied. He never wanted to catch sight of those pores again.
“Why do you think it left?” Chan asked.
“Maybe, we asked it to leave nicely,” Guna replied.
“You believe what they said, that we managed to communicate with it?”
“I have no idea.”
The whole country had seen the creature withstand desperate barrages from light firearms, tank cannons and missiles from fighter jets. The armed forces were throwing everything they had to stop its advance but their violence fell on invincible hardened skin. The only thing that kept the creature at bay was its own resting patterns. It would interrupt its streak of poisonous fumes and physical destruction by coming to a complete standstill. Like a misplaced iceberg in an oppressive humid climate, it would stand unmoving for weeks and months. The longest stretch of peace and silence the nation had was six months. The thing slept the sleep of the invulnerable. Nothing would penetrate it, nothing would wake it.
“Daddy, what’s it doing?” Guna remembered Rajeev asking. He didn’t have an answer for his son, so he went for the easiest, “It’s sleeping.”
“Is it going to stay that way forever?”
“I don’t know,” Guna said. He gave his son a lot of ‘I don’t know’s’ during these two years. Why is the creature so big? What are the green clouds coming out of its back? Will it be stopped? Why did his best friend at school Daniel stop showing up to class one day after falling sick? Guna was worried that his son might think he was an idiot for knowing so little about the world.
The people lived in an uneasy tension when the creature froze. Even when the government allowed businesses to resume, there was hardly any cheer. People met loved ones not knowing when they will see them again. On the third day of one of the re-openings, Guna remembered sitting at a kopitiam, watching the channel dedicated to broadcasting the creature live all around the clock. He was observing the patrons around him as he nursed his third and last bottle of beer. Their gazes were chained to the TV screen, their mouths double-locked in silence. No one could get drunk.
Seeing it move again was a terrible sensation. The familiar sense of dread swept through everyone and terror became dangerously monotonous. When Guna read the reports of those he cremated, he came across an entry of a woman who apparently just sat on a park bench as she saw the green fumes coming at her.
She could have run, as the fatal smog took a few minutes to reach her. She just sat there, staring.
The sky turned dark as dusk. The heavens let out a whistle and a pop and bursts of white and red stars appeared above. “It’s starting again,” Guna said.
“What do you think it means?” Chan asked. Guna had memorised the sequence. Red, red, white, red white, white. Over the past month, this specific sequence of fireworks was fired into the air on the Floating Platform in the Singapore River. The fireworks stopped the creature in its tracks and it looked at the flashes as if it were hypnotized. Someone seemed to have figured out that we were able to connect with the creature with colours and sounds. At this moment, no one knew what the sequence meant but there will be plenty of time for that. Guna imagined the conspiracy theories that would be drawn around this mystery. Fake news was another battle for another day.
The blasts and sparkles faded. The national anthem played softly through the public announcement system like an afterthought, as if the entire country suddenly remembered that it was the 9th of August today. The song continued playing when the creature disappeared, and it went on for some time until it was cut off abruptly like an underground party being raided by the police. Chan took this as a call back to work. He stood up and told Guna that he’d see him soon. Guna didn’t hear him. Instead, he stared ahead into the rising night, beseeching it to seal the departing creature forever and always.
Tan Kaiyi is on a literary odyssey to unearth the wonders and weirdness within the mundane. His poems have appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS). His play, On Love, was selected for performance at Short & Sweet Festival Singapore. He has also been published in Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018), an anthology of science fiction, fantasy and horror stories from the region.
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