OPINION

Indian Culture and Valentine's Day

February 14, 2007
Roshan Krishnan

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.

A techie interested in current affairs, politics and very much in love with my country. And my blogs will definitely reflect this.
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#1
sweetsanjay
URL
February 14, 2007
01:12 AM

It is highly deplorable that Desicritics chose to use its website to promote an alien tradition in Indsia [SIC -ED] such as the Valentines day on its web site. I fully support Bal thackarey in his stand against Valentines day. It is perfectly peacefull to purchase valentines day cards and burn them on the streets. No one gets hurt in this process. And it sends a powerfull message that Indians in India want to remain the Indians they remained for tens of thousands of years before. I see this struggle as a result of pride in India. If you lack pride of being Indian, you would celebrate Valentines day and maybe still call yourself Indian. The Indians in India must retain their identity. This Indian identity includes, as an essential character, not celebrating a festival of the type that Valentines day really is. So do you see how celebrating Valentines day will do damage to India and this world?? The world is a diverse place. If one does not want to preserve this diversity, then I only call such a person intolerant. A person that cannot imagine an India where Valentines day is not celebrated is essentially an Intolerant person. There is a campaign in the Indian media to promote Valentines day. There has to be a counter propaganda to resist this attempt to impose changes to our national character. It is the absence of this resistance in the Indian media that has prompted the Shiv Sena to adopt this stand on 14th february. I have only praise of this leader from Mumbai. He has takes very good stands on several important issues. Future generations will remember him for his efforts

#2
Roshan
URL
February 14, 2007
01:49 AM

Thanks a lot Sanjay, because of you I have realised my mistake. I will be more tolerant from today. I'll try my best to see that we remain as we were thousands of years ago.

How could I even have supported the celebration of V-day in India. How could I in my right mind have supported freedom of expression and choice? Maybe thats just it,I just wasn't in my right mind. I'm utterly shocked and disgusted at my behavior.

I think I'll go and burn a few V-day cards now. And if I'm lucky enough, I might just get to beat up a few couples out to ruin our great culture. I'm finally a true, proud Indian.

#3
Deepti Lamba
URL
February 14, 2007
02:33 AM

Each to their own. If some people want to pack it in a day , others in a year and some in a decade who are we to tell them not to?

Love has never killed anyone, let alone a culture. Let the youth be. When the heady rush of new love dies and is replaced by maturity it all mellow downs.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone:)

#4
Sri
February 14, 2007
07:56 AM

Roshan
You don't take lightly to criticism do you?
Maybe you should remove your comment section altogether.That would solve the problem of "nuisance" comments like sweetsanjay's.

sanjay says
There is a campaign in the Indian media to promote Valentines day. There has to be a counter propaganda to resist this attempt...

My question is :
What's wrong with that?
You need to take it easy dude
You say
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?
What a rant!!!!
Now do you say Bal Thackeray is responsible for all this???
Or he has to solve these problems himself??

You say
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.

dude,do you know the definition of "culture" ??
Sati was part of our culture??You need to brush up your facts.
Next thing you'll say is that porn,prostitution,drugs,terrorism are part of today's culture.
"We should not ,and cannot prevent changes in our culture??"
Only a numskull could have made such a statement..

#5
Roshan
URL
February 14, 2007
01:19 PM

Sri
The reason I wanted to write for desicritics was to know and get exposed to different points of view. So I have absolutely no problems with criticism of my views as long as it doesn't get personal. There'd be no debates if view points aren't criticized, right?

I'll try and put forth my views to some of the question you have raised. First, I did not believe that Sanjay's was a nuisance comment. On the contrary, I assumed he was being sarcastic and that he actually supported my view.

When he said Indians in India want to remain the Indians they remained for tens of thousands of years before, I did not believe that he was actually being serious. If he were, I'd like to ask him if he is living like that today. I realized that he was being serious when I saw a copy paste of the same comment on another V-Day post.

Next you asked what's wrong with a counter propaganda to resist the media campaign. Well, absolutely nothing is wrong with that. Have a counter propaganda by all means. But indulging in violence, beating up people and vandalizing private property is just not done. Do not equate attacking and thrashing innocent people with protecting our culture.

Coming to my rant. No, I haven't said that Bal Thackeray is responsible for most of the ills plaguing us. He definitely isn't. And he alone is not expected to solve all the problem. But yes, as a leader of a political party he can definitely influence his party men and other political parties to be more constructive.

Then you ask me if I know the definition of culture. Yes, I do. Before writing the article, I did go through various online dictionaries. Also wiki article on Culture.

Sati was a widely accepted practice in India for a very long time. And that, I believe made it part of the culture of people then. It's possible I have got my facts wrong, if so please feel free to correct me. Since you did not question me on child marriages, I'll take it that you accept that it was part of our culture.

Finally, you said only a numskull could have said that "we should not ,and cannot prevent changes in our culture". I guess it makes me a numskull then :).

But this numskull still believes that culture is dynamic and changes with time. There definitely will be resistance to change, but the change does happen eventually. Do you truly believe that our culture hasn't changed at all? Do you honestly think it has remained the same over the ages? Come on Sri, you know it and so do I that the Indian culture has continuously evolved and changed.

The point I was making in the article is that people are resorting to violence in the name of protecting my culture and to prove their point. And that is just unacceptable. I know my culture does not condone violence. There are other ways to prove your point.

#6
temporal
URL
February 14, 2007
01:51 PM

roshan:

good observations

re: culture and diverse view points...one should point out to the 'guardians' of culture that a little bit of love and affection will not kill or maim the 'culture'

:)

#7
Roshan
URL
February 14, 2007
02:28 PM

Thanks temporal. And yeah, a little bit of love and affection is not gonna hurt anyone. Some people sadly haven't realised that.

#8
Roshan
URL
February 15, 2007
06:43 AM

Sainiks Try to marry couples on V-day. Seriously, what do they think they are doing?

And this is their justification
...it[shiv sena student wing] was opposed to the idea of celebrating Valentine's Day as the free expression of love is an attack on Indian culture and leads to obscenity and loss of values.

#9
raj
URL
February 20, 2007
04:43 AM

In Western nations, women are not supported by husband or anyone. It goes by give and take policy in marriage. In 2005 as per USA census it is said Marriage is getting extinct in USA.

www.ipc498a.org/498a.ppt

do you think any man on the land of india will accept someone he is feeding can control him meaninglessly? by criminal terror fear. Marriage will 100% destroy in a year or 10 yrs, But certainly it will. I guess, outsiders of india is involved for this.

Those women, who are not thinking and running fastly behind feminist organisations are not thinking in a dimension calmly whether it really helps preserve our culture and soul.

These laws will be used sprucely by manipulative women largely. If any sita using it, her mind will be slowly spoiled by other bad women to misuse it and "umbrella of control" starts in her family. Marriage closes shortly.

How can a luv/trust/attachment relationship runs with police, using economic/emotional abuse without physical abuse?

In otherwords, we are getting pulled by western nations for their form of life style. no one is thinking about this.

un married women age grows and they will be more burdened like western women to manage herself or her father less(if) family. No man will come forward to marry her or to live with her in fear of 498a or DV act. what will be the fate of the country?

If you see urban women look healthy and ready for beauty contest, but even higher position men or a bureacrat look dry face, peechy personality or dull/pale structure. Am I wrong in not making this research properly? though we call india, male-dominated, it is never. These men are attached and running their families blindly with no expectation. Such highly position kinda men never take care of their women such way in any part of western life. This happens only in India. Now these men start thinking seriously. These men learn theri sons to stay away from urban women for marriages.


Laws when designed in bias to women should have been designed bias towards education and literacy as well. Govt must had designed DVact or
498a differently for educated women after 10th or intermediate atleast, so that misuse gets stopped and country would have flourished infrastructurally. Urban educated ill-women is as cruel as a urban educated ill-men. dont you agree? In that case, how do you agree to keep such laws in the hands of such women? dont you think such women crime increases in society and go unnoticed as there is no law for bad married women to get arrested.

I came to know about this after looking life in the west for several years. Western nations are male dominated but not India.

Infrastructure of India will further deteriorate because all significant thinkers loose balance of their mind to perfectly. 5% intellectuals responsible for 70% growth of the country, anyone thought about this. and this 5% disturbed for 5 to 20 yrs due to 498a or dv act!! what happens? present fate of country happened.

Because of blackmail, by-controll, implicit marital conflicts and years together fight inside courts JUST for finance distribution among couple. Bureacrats and intellectuals mind this way gets ruptured and can't contribute well or time for the infrastructure better for the country. Intellectuals continue to leave the country.

This is what you wanted DV or 498a in current form. if any innocent women is learnt about such laws, and one bad individual is enough to change their minds to control their husbands. That starts destruction of marriage and take a lot of time and resources of individuals.

Today india infrastrcutre is affected, I believe, strong reason is 498a. Many officials participate in corruption as they became imbalanced, selfish not thinking properly for the development of the country, just because their minds are affected for 5 to 15 yrs period in controlled, blackmailed marriage. you can't imagine what happens to brain or physiology of human when stressed for years together. That outcome is the present physic structure of men in India.

In future, just like in the west, women be it mother, sister will be fed by only brothers or fathers only. Concept of husband will die. If they get husbands, they get poor husbands, who are economically not well otherwise not. Just western life pervades all walks of life in India. Marriage will not happen (bcoz, boys parents learn boys not to, I learn my son to..i need his physical health and mental helath rather marriage life).

Many intellecutals(70% 498a cases) masters, phds, engineers, doctors are around courts for 5 yrs to 8 yrs to just become innocent after trials. Is this the way country using intellectual resources/proeprty for the country? is this what we wanted India to be?

There is chance for India only when dedicated, sacrifice women role is required. India doesn't afford feminism. It affords active role of BEST women for the development of the nation. Women who are in wonderful marriage and at the same time helping hands for the country flourish and not feminists.

I end up saying only one thing before western feminism takes its troll completely -

Good women ROLE is must for Indias growth and to preserve marriage value system and spiritual india. Pls. think calmly for a day or 2 and read western life and indian life difference, where it comes. I want my daughter to be part of this marriage system and not living outside marriage with multiple parterns in the name of liberation or empowerment.

Once majority of Indian men are learnt not to provide/protect/feed his wife for no reciprocation/expectation from herside, that is westernization.

Do you think, a man who simply becomes a pet dog with economic/emotional violence usage by a urban controlling any women. I dont think so. Marriage will 100% break. BUT if the man is intelligent enough to become a beggar, what happens to the fate of that women in the current indian critcal/difficult economy, has any
one thought about it. She will be forced to enter into mal-profession for survival. Bad elements use her more and more. Is this feminism?

Such cases grow exponentially from year after year. Men stop marrying if not now, after 5 yrs. parents will no longer marry their boys. they learn them how to stay away and take care of themselves.

I disclaim all liabilities, these are my opinions & thoughts and experience for the help to other mankind preserving spiritual india.

#10
Roshan
URL
February 20, 2007
12:58 PM

Dude! Raj...i really don't know what to say.

You have made the urban Indian woman the reason for all the bane in our country! Low economic growth, corruption, cultural shortcomings, you have blamed the urban women for all that. I wonder what the women have to say about this. I guess your disclaimer in the end will redeem you somewhat.

#11
Desigirl
URL
February 20, 2007
02:23 PM

Roshan:
I wouldn't worry too much about Raj's post - he has pretty much copied and pasted the same comment in response to one of my posts too. So don't take it personally!!!!

#12
Roshan
URL
February 20, 2007
11:37 PM

Not taking it personally at all Desigirl. Thats why i didn't really post a reply countering what he said.

I took time understanding what he had written. Once I did that, it was amusing that someone could think like that. :)

#13
Desigirl
URL
February 21, 2007
02:59 AM

Roshan:
The mind boggles, eh? I know the feeling!

#14
Tuomas Santakallio
URL
February 21, 2007
05:55 AM

Valentines Day?

I've celebrated that day once, until i learned it is a Catholic festivity. As a Protestant i cannot celebrate anything Catholic. See my sarcasm.

Anyway, a festival of love? Aren't we supposed to love each other every single day of our lives? Whyd o we need a fabricated, surfacial Valentines Day for it? IS it because De Beers needs top sell a few more off-the-shelf just-felt-like-getting-married-today-and-fighting-for -divorce-tomorrow wedding rings?

I do not take a stance on whether the head of the family should be a man or a woman, but i take an opinion in deteriorating family values due to growing urban egocentrism and descend from Atman to Personality. That happens because Western feminism is not real gender equality policy. IT is rather cheap materialism clad in the shawl of womens' rights.

Valentines Day is a representation of this materialism in it's purest form. Love and romance becomes a commodity which is sold on then Internet, on shopping malls, in flowerstores, in fancy restaurants as if there was no love in the society on any other day.

Can you go out in the city, find a girlfriend or a boyfriend, declare you love him/her, find another the next day, think you're having the best fun ever, never know even the family name of your partner, and not be a prostitute? Shh... i just broke a taboo of my Western culture. You're not supposed to talk about this or you lose your value on the "dating market". You're not supposed to talk about your past partners either, and you're not supposed to take your relationship seriously, yet you should tell your partner you love him/her.

Now, there is a problem here. If you want a quick flick can't you just be straight about it? No, because nobody accepts you if you say you want only self-satisfaction. Can you find love in such culture even if you say you love your partner? No because you're not supposed to take the relationship seriously. What the f*** is that?

The values of materialism that this day represents, are not real. Simply not real. If they were real, love and dating and charm and poetry would be manifested every single day of the year.

Are people too busy working in their offices, construction yards, factories and farms, watching Bollywood movies about imaginary love, and pretending they love their family members - so that they in the end have "NO TIME" for real love and compassion?

I don't want to challenge the Indian way of life. I admire Indian values, but i'm just talking about a Western point of view. Critisizing my own culture. =D

#15
Tuomas Santakallio
URL
February 21, 2007
06:03 AM

Oh yeah, opposing Valentine's day by organizing street gangs to break up restaurants is a clear someone is envious.

They show they have no love in their hearts on Valentines Day because they don't have it any other day of the year either. They should join the revolution and fall in love!

We don't need a special day to remember we love the girl on our university class. We should remind her the same day we feel like it, isntead of waiting for the whole year for the chance to ask her out on the Valentines. And build a lasting relationship on the things the two people feed upon, on their own history. Not the history the society wants to proclaim with Hindu or Muslim traditions, Valentines Days, Christian faith, so-called liberalization, or whatever, but with the history that belongs between the lovers.

For love is like awild flower that never grows in the confines prepared for it, but in the most unexpected places whereever it desires to dwell. We should grow our love whereever it appears. Then it becomes rock-solid.

#16
BD
URL
February 21, 2007
07:15 AM

I wonder if all this is because of the chaddi's they wear. All that open air wafting around your bits really cant be good, can it?

#17
Roshan
URL
February 21, 2007
09:10 AM

Tuomas, completely agree with what you have said. And I respect your views/comments on my post.

It shouldn't be just one day where you express your love. I don't believe that western culture is really great. On the contrary, I'm proud of my culture.

I'm neither against nor for V-day. Like you, if people do not want to celebrate it, they will not. But I'm definitely against those people who indulge in vandalism and violence in the name of culture. Even they have the choice of not celebrating it. Imposing your opinions on others through violence is just not done!

BD, it just might be those shorts. Interesting take, I must say :)

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