Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Day - Cupid and the Culture Police

Valentines Day – Cupid v/s Culture Police

The silly season is upon us. The season of flowers, chocolates, teddy bears and what not.
Although a phenomenon restricted to the urban and so called ‘modern’ society in India, Valentines Day is fast becoming a rage among the younger generation of the country. It has become an integral part of their culture, helped in no mean terms by the media and what I call the “Card Cartel” of Archies and Hallmark. The members of the previous generation in the country are completely caught unawares by this new phenomenon. Their emotions range from mild curiosity to downright derision. Some have even turned a blind eye towards it as though to show that it is not even worth thinking about. You can’t blame them either, as this a phenomenon that never existed in their time and hence they are entitled to wonder what the fuss is all about.

I remember that in my school days we had only heard of Valentines day one of those fascinating/crazy (depending on whether you admire or abhor all that is west) things that westerners do. By the time I reached college though the story was completely different. It was the time of cards, flowers etc. The MTV generation in India was just taking off and the entire generation seemed to have jumped on to the bandwagon. But even then it was mainly used by the guys as a means to propose their feelings to girls on whom they might have had a crush for ages. The rest of us were there to watch the entertainment the actual execution of their plans would entail.

Now the scenario has changed even more. Now Valentine’s Day is as important in the popular culture as are say some of our traditional festivals and holidays. All youngsters celebrate Valentine’s Day at various degrees based on the amount of money they have. It ranges from a simple card to elaborate parties. What was one among the plethora of “days” (viz. father’s day, mother’s day, friendship day and so on) created by the earlier mentioned card cartel has now grown into a multi billion Rupee industry. By the end of it all you have burned a big crater into your wallet.

In this day and age when nobody seems to have the time for anybody else, Valentines Day has become highly important to many. People are so selfish nowadays that they are fascinated by the idea spending a day for someone else. This is the appeal of Valentines Day as it provides a vent to all those guilty feelings one has of not spending enough time with one’s loved one.

The whole thing has come as a culture shock for some others. They have taken upon themselves to be the so called caretakers of culture and tradition of India. There are even political groups who have jumped on to this bandwagon and have gone to extremes in order to stop this “corruption of ideals and morals” (their version of morals at least) in youngsters. We have seen in the past couples getting beaten up for so much as holding each other’s hands. Parties broken up and their attendees thrashed on Valentine’s Day.

In spite of all this, Valentines Day is celebrated throughout the country by more and more people every day. What the cultural police do not realize is that they are fighting a losing battle against cupid. It is another matter whether these feelings that the cupid stuck lovers have are those of true love or not. Their indignation is more towards the fact that their freedom is violated and rights oppressed.

What these cultural polices need to realize is that anybody in India has the right to celebrate anything in this country as long as it doesn’t affect the freedom of others. By that definition they should be protesting against some religious and political celebrations which is an excuse to cause a lot noise and air pollution. But hey, nobody is going to do that. Why? Coz its part of our culture to celebrate it in such manner and to speak against it would stamp you as being intolerant and anti-secular.

My request to the so called care takers of culture is simple, let people live their lives as they want to live it and please show a bit more tolerance. Our culture has changed and evolved over the years and it will continue to do so in time. My request to the youngsters is please do whatever you want to do in private. Don’t take Valentine’s Day to be an excuse to frolic in public or start shrieking (especially for girls) at the top of your lungs, my ears can’t bear it. Some of your antics are downright crass and lacks class. It can be used to much better use.

So am I for or against Valentines Day? I will answer by stating my plans for the big day. My wife and I are software engineers in one of the biggest companies in India. We rarely get the time to have a cup of coffee together let alone spend some quality time together. So we are going to take Valentines Day as an excuse and leave early from our office. We are going to a nice quiet restaurant and have a nice quiet dinner. I hope the culture police don’t mind that.

1 comment:

Tejas said...'s nice blog. I am trying to sum up some material for a blog on the role of culture cops in Indian society at present. I am heavily against those who deem themselves the keepers of our heritage. Culture is what people make and preserve. If people are attracted by V-Day, no one else has a right to stop them.

The way Shiv Sainiks and other aggressive groups act in such times, by destroying card vendors and attacking those who celebrate their love, I firmly believe the entire organization should be banned. They hardly contribute to the development of society - either financially or socially.