Spring is in the offing! That magical time of the year when a young man’s fancy turns into love. As the many hued flowers begin to blossom in the warm vernal sun, so does young love blossom in the hearts of those stirred by immortal longings. Lovers from across the globe begin to prepare for that day when heady proclamations of love are made, and gifts exchanged as an avowal of fidelity. Yet, this yea, some parts of India will be devoid of this celebration of love. There will be no happy couples holding hands; there will be none in the parks wrapped in warm embrace, the air will not be redolent with the emanating joy. This Valentine’s Day, hate shall exert ascendancy.
As India rains allegations on Pakistan, accusing it of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough to prevent anti-India plots on its soil, it is a time for introspection. It is time we asked ourselves if we really have the moral high ground to question our neighbor’s commitment to anti-terrorism causes, when we ourselves do nothing to stem the rot in our own backyard. Yes, while you were sleeping, pernicious groups have taken root on our soil, spewing messages of hate. Like cancerous cells that proliferate at the expense of benign ones. Poisoning the essence of our society, filling the hearts of our children with fear. They call themselves custodians of our morality. A morality that they choose to define on their own terms. So consumed with their virulent agenda that they forget the essence of Indian culture. A culture they have appointed themselves champions of.
It is here that we find ourselves confronted with fundamental questions such as what indeed is Indian culture. These self imposed guardians of our conscience would define culture as rigid set of rules written in 3000 BC, that we should impose on our youth. But isn’t culture like a beautiful tapestry instead? Is it not in a constant state of flux? Worked on since antiquity by that skilled artisan: History?
India as a country has been subject to conquests since the time of Alexander the Great. In hordes they came, across the rugged Hindukush Mountains and grassy Steppes of Central Asia, lured by her fabled wealth and prosperity. Again and again we have been subjected to foreign rule. The Turks, Muslims, Persians, Mughals and finally, the British, have all, at some point of time or the other, had domination over the land beyond the river Indus. In this sense, India is truly a melting pot of some of the most ancient of cultures. Each of these ‘foreign’ cultures left indelible marks on the art, language and architecture of our country. Therein lays her greatness. Where other countries waged revolutions to purge their cultures of ‘foreign’ influence, in India, we assimilate. We absorb the uplifting, discarding the inferior. Each culture forms a gossamer thread in the intricate fabric of our nation to give rise to an embroidery unmatched in this richness and splendor.
Now that waves of globalization sweep the world, bringing with it uniformity that affects every nation, it is time to evolve again. A time to accept the western influences that the Internet, satellite television and the unfettered exchange of information have ushered in. Instead, we have Right wing extremists who decry the Americanization of Indian society, raving and ranting against couples going out on Valentine’s Day.
The question again is: Do were really need parties to ensure the moral probity of our youth? Or should we, as a democratic, civil society let our adult population choose for itself what values they wish to espouse? Moral policing is always a dangerous precedent in any society because there are no limitations to what can be censored. It always begins with something as innocuous as film censorship, but inevitably assumes demoniacal proportions. How much longer should we be told what is righteous and what is not?
The reason I haven’t even deigned to name the Right wing activists who have recently shot to fame after their deplorable attacks on pubs in Mangalore is because they don’t deserve mention in print. In fact, the Indian press has been equally complicit in the entire episode, by giving these villains so much attention and coverage. Treat them like the common criminals and terrorists they are. Try them to the most severe extent of the law. Media attention only serves their vested interests. When will we learn?
When I look around today, the scenes of gloom and depression are hard to miss. The barely clothed, shivering child serving tea on a cold, Delhi morning. The old stooped woman who begs for alms at the traffic light. The newspapers are full of them. Pictures of death and deprivation are splashed across every page. Wars in every continent. Entire populations ravaged. Where do we turn to for solace and surcease? Do we practice what we preach or do we turn the other cheek? Valentines Day is celebrated to honour love, not just romantic love, but love in any form; the most fundamental of all human emotions. The quintessence of our humanity. Can we live in a world where love is suppressed? If you ask me, we need more days like these where people express their love. They say love is infectious, it brings hope. Something we could all do with a lot more of.