Om Sweet Om

“Roses are red, violets are blue,
don’t even think about celebrating Valentine’s Day
if you’re a Hindu…”

india-valentines-day-protest-2009-2-14-9-4-45.jpgThere are few things that get right-wing Hindu fundamentalists quite as rabid as the twang of cupid’s bow every year. In fact, on the foaming-at-the-mouth scale of outrage, Valentine’s Day is right up there with usurping temples, blaspheming deities, and suggesting that Pakistanis be invited to play on an Indian cricket team. 

(To be fair, Hindus aren’t the only faith group who don’t <3 Valentine’s Day. Just Google “Muslim Valentine’s Day” for a sample.)

What  exactly about Feb 14th has got these vigilant guardians of Hindu purity — these are guys who make the Tea Party look like, um, a tea party — feeling so angry mob-ish? Is it the obscenely over-priced greeting cards? The traumatic effects of being subjected to Hugh Grant movies? The fact that effigy-burnings and Hindu pride rallies make awkward choices for a first-date?  

No, it turns out; its simply that Valentine’s Day is a Western imposition on pure Indian culture that corrupts the delicate morality of innocent Hindu boys and girls.

Say what? The culture that authored the Kama Sutra is going to be corrupted by Hallmark and Godiva chocolates? I don’t buy it. 

valentine-india-protest-2.jpgOkay, so I agree that, couples can definitely go too far with PDA
around this time of year. And I do feel that, after decades of
repression, the pendulum may be swinging too far the other way: there’s
no denying that today’s Hindu youth have their collective hormones in
over-drive, thanks largely to an unrealistic and unhealthy obsession
with Bollywood-scripted ideas of romance. And, yes, the greeting card
companies and restaurants and irresponsible manufacturers of
dangerously large stuffed animals are all jumping on the bandwagon,
commercializing love to make a quick buck.

And on a serious note, it is true that there are guys  who will take
advantage of Valentine’s Day to justify what Indian people call
eve-teasing” (read: sexual harassment and assault) as innocent
flirting in the spirit of the holiday. Obviously, that should not be
tolerated — harassment is harassment, whether on February 14th or not.

But protesting Valentine’s Day? Mobilizing volunteers into “morality
police” that seek out couples and unleash holy hell on them? All in the
name of Hinduism?!

valentine day india Shiv Sena supporters burning cards.jpgIt gets even more absurd. Not only did protestors burn Valenine’s Day
cards in the streets. Not only did they the self-appointed morality
minders threaten to turn offending couples in to their parents (who,
presumably didn’t know that their kids were out on dates– casual
dating is still taboo among many conservative Hindus ). But at least
some “activists”, including members of the controversial group Bajrang
Dal, vowed to deliver what many consider the most severe “punishment”
of all. Reports the Times of India:

Armed with two priests and carrying ‘mangalsutra,’ the
traditional necklace worn by married Hindu women, along with other materials
like vermilion, the Bajrang Dal activists would force lovers to tie the knot.
Valientine’s Day is against Indian culture, said area coordinator of Bajrang Dal
Amol Thackeray. He, however, clarified that the saffron wing is not against
love. “If you love somebody, marry him or her. Can there be a better way of
expressing your love than marrying your beloved,” explained Thackeray.

Hmmm. Can there be a better way of expressing my love than marrying my
beloved? Maybe. How about a ceremony that didn’t include religious
fanatics screaming in my face and thugs armed with cricket bats
threatening to beat me to a pulp? On the up side, the plot of the
Indian version of “How I Met Your Mother…” practically writes itself.

But that’s the craziest, right? Oh how I wish it was. From the Asian News Network, this gem
about a right-wing leader whose protests of Valentine’s Day are met
with an interesting counter-protest: young people send him pink

And, what of the pink chaddis (underwears) that he might receive, like last year, from youngsters in protest?

Undeterred, the Sene now proposes to dispatch saris and bangles as return gifts to all those who send pink chaddis to its chief.

In addition, the outfit plans to meet all hoteliers to discourage
them from holding or organising any celebration for the Valentine’s
Day, as “this is alien to Indian culture”.

Last year, the Sene had hit the headlines when it attacked a
Mangalore pub where several girls were hurt during the melee. There
were complaints of misbehaviour as well against the outfit members for
which the Sene apologised later…

Later, Sene activists sought to prevent youngsters from celebrating
Valentine’s Day in parts of the state, leading to Muthalik’s office
receiving several hundred pink chaddis as a mark of protest.


Hello? Sending pink underwear?! Sending back
saris and bangles? (I’m not sure if the message there is “Go get
married!” or if its more of a “Oh yeah, well I think you’re a
girl, so ha! And no backsies!”) Again, on the upside… this provides
young ladies the opportunity to get a new sari and bangles for the
price of a measly pair of pink undies.

Will the madness stop? Probably not any time soon. As I’ve blogged
about before (here and here), Hinduism distinguishes between real love (prema) and lust (kama). But it also tells us about kama’s kissing cousin, krodha — unbridled and uncontrolled anger, which qickly turns to hatred and madness.

I’ll take the cheesiest Hugh Grant flick over that brand of “Hinduism” any day. 

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