It was 14th of February and I could really feel the love in the air. As I was walking through the Kamla Nagar market, adjacent to the North Campus of the Delhi University, I could see the excitement buzzing through the people there. The shops were stocked with cards, chocolates and presents. Even vendors were roaming on the streets selling red roses and heart shaped balloons.
In the midst of all this, I noticed a lot of hustle bustle ahead. The police had placed barricades on the road, news channels were flooding the market and there were some people distributing pamphlets. I realized that the Shiv Sena was staging a protest against the Valentine’s Day celebration in the Delhi University. I wasn’t appalled by the fact that they were staging a protest because they do that every year. I was perturbed by what was written on that pamphlet and the orthodox ideas the Shiv Sena intended to voice.
The pamphlet, for one, had the photographs of Bal Thakeray, Udhav Thakeray and Jaibhagwaan Goyal along with their party symbol. I couldn’t stop myself from believing that this was nothing but a political stunt. ‘VALENTINE’S DAY’ was written below these photographs followed by a statutory warning, ‘ATTENTION’, to add to the affect and make their point clearer, there were roses printed with cross signs over them. They claimed this day to be against the Indian ethos and that it celebrated “vulgarity and violence”, something which I couldn’t digest. I do agree that the Valentine’s Day has become a marketing gimmick and that you don’t need these expensive gifts to put your love across to your beloved. I also agree that it does bring along with it, a little sense of vulgarity, but at the heart of it, it is still a day to tell your loved ones that you care for them.
The Shiv Sena had also written in the pamphlet that this day is nothing but a conspiracy against the youth, forcing them to deviate from their “path”, and that we, men, were degrading the women and their position in the society by giving them gifts and also that such days gave rise to incidents of rape and sexual harassment.
They also proclaimed that festivals like Diwali, Holi, Karva Chauth, 15th August and Basant Panchami were sufficient enough to celebrate love and they didn’t need such western influences distorting our society.
They, in their own “good” ways, were trying to protect people from becoming “victims” of the western culture and were concerned that such immoral celebrations would corrupt the youth and compel them to part ways with their values and traditions. They wanted the youth to understand the difference between “traditional Indian values” and “western promiscuity”.
If the Shiv Sena does feel that we are “degrading” women by presenting them with gifts, then can someone go and ask them what they are doing about the issues of child marriage, sati, dowry and other such ill practices that plague our society today?
Are the traditions and values we inherit, so fragile that this so-called “western culture” will destroy it? Either the Shiv Sena is too paranoid or they don’t hold their values in high esteem and are very insecure about it. We should not forget as to how India got her rich heritage and values that she is known for. She has always been a country who has given shelter to all religions, cultures and thoughts. A country who has always imbibed values from “foreign” influences and has made her customs stronger. Right from the Aryans, followed by The Mauryas, The Guptas, Chalukyas, Cholas, the Pallavas and the Pandyas to the Mughals and then the British, India has never had a history of being orthodox in adopting various cultures. If India has stood the test of times for centuries, why does the Shiv Sena deem it to be so vulnerable? Who is Bal Thakarey to decide what is good for our culture and what is not?
People in this country are mature enough to understand their customs and values. The Shiv Sena should also realize that with changing times, the society evolves and values evolve with it. The true meaning of the values doesn’t change, what changes is the way people interpret them. This is essentially how the youth can comes to terms with the past. If the Shiv Sena cares so much for our country, then they should rather invest their time in problems which are more important than these. What do values mean to a poor person who can’t get two square meals a day? There are a number of social evils prevalent in India which need urgent attention rather than fighting for petty issues like these.
It would only help if the Shiv Sena saw it from a different perspective. They could rise above the trivial meaning of this celebration and use it as a platform to spread love between not only the two sexes, but also religions, castes and countries; and take it to another level altogether. As it is said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Samarjit Singh Khanna
[Image courtesy: http://i157.photobucket.com/albums/t46/mutinyin/14-inside-india.jpg]