Monday, February 20, 2012

PAUPER’S LOG: Valentine’s Day: Fun and Fuss



Valentine’s Day: Fun and Fuss

By Abu Arsh

It was V-Day time and the cupid were at it again. The waiting over and it's was all hearts, red and pink roses, confectioneries, greeting cards, new attires, treats, variety events with blaring music and you name it. Youngsters were at it with full attendance at schools, class bunks at colleges and the married busy in their own discrete ways- loving and even cheating on their spouses.  
In India, around 1992 Valentine's Day started catching up with special TV and radio programs, and even love letter competitions. The economic liberalization also helped the Valentine card industry. In modern times, religious traditionalists consider the day to be cultural contamination from the West, result of the globalization in India. Groups and political outfits like the Sri Ram Sena, Shiv Sena, Bajrang dal and the Sangh Parivar have asked their followers to shun the day and the "public admission of love" because of them being "alien to Indian culture". These protests are organized by political elites, but the protesters themselves are middle-class Indian men who fear that the globalization will destroy the traditions in our society: arranged marriages, joint families, full-time mothers and so on.
The day is regarded by certain groups as a front for Western imperialism, neocolonialism, and the exploitation of working classes through commercialism by multinational corporations. Studies have shown that Valentine's Day promotes and aggravates income inequality in India, and aids in the creation of a pseudo-westernized middle class. As a result, the working classes and rural poor become more disconnected socially, politically, and geographically from the capitalist power structure. They also criticize mainstream media attacks on Indians opposed to Valentine's Day as a form of demonization that is designed and derived to further the Valentine's Day agenda. Despite these obstacles, Valentine's Day is becoming increasingly popular in India.
Radical groups point out that youngsters are being looted by celebrating Valentine's Day. "These celebrations are just a gimmick of multi-national companies, who want to loot money from young consumers in India by celebrating Valentine's Day. Spending on gift items - right from cards, flowers, jewellery, chocolates, mobile phones, MP3 players and wrist watches, people in our country spend lakhs on this particular day," According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), the expenditure during Valentine's week last year was a whopping Rs.12,000 crore.
This year the moral brigade outfits like Shiv Sena, who cracks down on love-struck couples on Valentine's had no real intention to play spoilsport on Feb 14. One of the reasons behind this change of heart is the bad reputation they were getting. In the past, religious radicals kept vigil at parks, restaurants and other places on the day to prevent couples from getting close, and also attacked greeting card shops, pubs and gardens to protest the celebrations, drawing widespread criticism. Though the Bajrang Dal opposed celebrations this year by asking couples to marry or tie a Rakhi on the spot at parks and other venues as the cost of public display of love.
Historically, it's very hard to find a proper link between Saint Valentine and love. No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either Valentine of Rome or Valentine of Terni around 200 AD. Valentine became linked to romance without much substance in the 14th century; distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.
The islands too didn't lag behind in celebrating the day, though for most of us -the reds and pinks splattered across at card stores and gift shops choke us out. Non-stop love songs being played across all radio stations, music channels, and kids asking for a raise in pocket money makes one feel like pulling your hair in disgust. These trends must be well understood and not aped so as to not let these celebrations contribute to more social and moral corruption; our island's society is already deeply embroiled in. Kids can have all the fun and not go overboard. Once our kids go for higher studies to the mainland and are on their own, they become vulnerable to such trends and attractions. With the dearth of entertainment and constructive avenues in the islands, kids have very limited opportunities to unwind or have some fun except for occasions like these. These may lead to issues which make headline news like what we've been reading and watching a lot of late.  

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