Indian Culture and Valentine's Day
It's that time of the year again! There are heart shaped red balloons in shops and restaurants, on billboards and even on television. Advice is being given away on gifting, romance, dating and on just about anything to do with love. It's the season of romance, and love is in the air.
And so is violence, threats and protests. The moral police is out in full force to maintain the purity of the Indian culture. They are even on television deriding western culture and its evil and immoral influence on ours. Some young 'unpatriotic' Indians have dared to corrupt our culture by expressing their love for someone. The lathis needed to beat them up have been readied. The saffron clad moral police is armed and ready. They are only protecting the culture they love - love is definitely in the air. Isn't Valentines Day a lot of fun?
But I, for one, don't have to worry about corrupting our great culture. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don't have anyone to celebrate Valentine's day with. And I will not encourage commercialization of this day. I promise I won't buy cards, flowers, chocolates or anything else which could in anyway help big foreign companies who are out to ruin my culture. Maybe someone should give me an award for being such a model citizen and for doing my bit to protect Indian culture.
Jokes and sarcasm aside, the threats issued by the VHP, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena etc., against V-day celebrations has almost become a ritual on this day. Thugs of these organizations vandalize card shops and restaurants. Couples are pulled out of restaurants and beaten up and humiliated. The day just becomes an excuse for them to violate all laws and gain their 30 seconds of fame on television.
Such intolerance speaks very poorly about our culture. We, as a nation, seem to have become incapable of accepting additions to it. We do not tolerate satirical books or movies about our country, religion or gods. We do not appreciate movies that introspect our history, books that look at our leaders critically. We just go ahead and ban them all. VHP, Shiv Sena, etc are just manifesting this intolerance through violence.
Some of the reasons given to oppose Valentine's Day are that it is not part of our culture and is an import from the west. The day is overly commercialized and has become an excuse for big corporations to mint money. Some claim that there's more indecent behavior in public on this day and some others say that women are harassed more on the fourteenth of February. Agreed, some of it might be true, it's definitely an import. But does this justify getting down to violence and vandalism?
Culture, as anything else in this world, is dynamic. It never remains the same. What was culture earlier, like sati and child marriage, is a crime today. Something that a lot of people in a society do and accept becomes culture. We should not, and cannot, prevent changes in our culture. It's inevitable.
We have a rich heritage and culture as a nation. But at the same time people need to realize that in today's age, a culture cannot be isolated from the rest of the world. The protesters aren't the only ones who have a sense of right and wrong, who have strong ethics and moral values. Most of the people whom they beat up also have it. They aren't stupid! They should be left to decide what's good or bad for them. If VHP and Shiv Sena have a problem with Valentine's Day, they need not celebrate it. Nobody is forcing them to. They can protect and maintain the "Indian Culture" amongst themselves. They have no right to dictate what I should or shouldn't do.
If we consider their other argument of commercialization, even that holds no water. What isn't commercialized today? If businesses smell money somewhere, they will commercialize it. If Valentine's Day is commercialized, so is Holi, Diwali, Christmas and almost all other big festivals. There are greeting cards for all these occasions, gifts are bought and given, shops and restaurants are decorated, advertisements on television and in the papers, discount sales - it's commercialization at it's best.
Talking about commercialization, you guys know about the festival where people go and buy gold because it's auspicious to do so? If I'm not wrong, I think it's called Akshay Tritiya. I hadn't even heard of it until a few years ago! And now there are newspaper and radio advertisements as the festival nears. I don't see any party protesting such blatant commercialization. Maybe it's because these festivals are part of our culture. The problem seems to arise only when something is commercialized and is of western origin.
The protesters claim to be protecting our culture. But there are better avenues where they can channelize their energy. We claim to respect women and treat them as goddesses. But ask any woman how respected she feels while traveling in a crowded public transport and then we'll know how we treat our women. Sometimes poverty makes people force young kids into prostitution and there are people still starving in our country. Education is still a distant dream for many. We have made accepting and giving bribes our culture. Where is the protest against all this? Why aren't corrupt bureaucrats pulled out of their offices and brought to justice? Or are we proud of all this as it's our culture? Why are political parties wasting their time on such non-issues? Is it because they make better news?
We claim to be a free democratic nation. But when such thugs are allowed to vandalize property and assault people and go scot-free, then it means that they are allowed to curb my freedom of expression and freedom to choose. And that just isn't acceptable.
Indian Culture and Valentine's Day
- » Published on February 14, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
- » Filed under: