By Zehra Kazmi:
Let’s face it; Valentine’s Day is the most frivolous excuse for a holiday ever. No one except florists and gift shop owners take it seriously. It’s a silly tradition, invented for the sole purpose of extracting money out of lovesick couples.
Growing up, I would watch my more popular friends from school receive bouquets, cards and rather ugly teddy bears on Valentine’s Day from their eager to please boyfriends. I was one of those sad girls who would be excited about their gifts, trying so hard to forget my own absence of a boyfriend who could buy me stuff. I was a mopey loser in the corner, I know.
I may have grown up now but my reaction to Valentine’s Day still remains the same – rolling my eyes. However, I still believe that no matter how deep-seated my personal sense of distaste for such blatant display of wealth and “affection” might be it’s no one’s business to stop people from celebrating it.
The Hindu Mahasabha seems ready to bear the wedding expenses of couples who are seen outside on Valentine’s Day. So if you are a broke couple who doesn’t want to spend money on a fancy wedding, all you have to do is step out with your significant other, hold a rose is your hand, install yourself at some local mall or park and wait for a rabid Hindutvavadi to find you. While a prompt Arya Samaj wedding will be forced on Hindu couples, inter-faith partners will have to go through a “shuddhikaran” (purification) ritual.
Chandra Prakash Kaushik, the Mahasabha national president, said, “India is a country where all 365 days are days for love, why then must couples observe only February 14 as Valentine’s Day?”
Wow. What a relevant question.
Considerate Kaushik deeply cares about the sanctity of marriage and love. The couples who claim to be in love will have to pass our marriage test, he has warned. He extends his understanding wisdom towards those who might not to be too sure about getting married out of the blue on a Saturday. “We are not against love, but if a couple is in love then they must get married. In case if the couples claim that they need time to think about marriage, we will tell them that if they are not certain, they should not belittle love by openly going around together. We will also inform their parents,” he explains. While the rationale of these organizations cannot cause anything but a peal of helpless laughter on my side, I realize that the whole thing isn’t so funny for the two people who are publically harassed, shamed and beaten up by these goons while bystanders and the police become mute spectators to such instances of molestation and assault.
For a state that makes grand promises to its citizens about freedom of speech and expression, it’s shameful that we cannot promise security to a young couple out on a stroll on the 14th of February. The problem that we seem to have with love as a concept stems from the fact that despite everything, a part of our society’s consciousness has still not come to terms with the need of people to love each other. We have internalized the values of loveless, “practical” rishtas so much, that for so many of us, compatibility and mutual affection come so low in their list of priorities, it is alarming. Furthermore, our censuring of all things “love’’ is related to our discomfort with a notion that still seems so foreign to us. We, as a society, don’t feel that love is important or appropriate enough to be spoken of in the public realm; it is something that needs to be relegated into the private, an emotion so base that it should never be expressed at all, at least for the right-wing saffron and mullah brigade. Patriarchy seeks to control expression and to tell women who and whom not to love-your child and husband. Love based on mutual respect and choice seems to threaten the social fabric that allows these people to dictate, and that is why they protest so violently against Valentine’s Day.
If the Constitution guarantees us freedom of expression under Articles 19 and 21, this celebration is also a part of it.