Valentine's Day ushers a wave of new politics against the Hindutva moral police
Amit Sengupta, New Delhi, Hardnews
If love's in the air, it's not really visible. But, like a cliché, it repeats itself relentlessly, breathlessly. In more ways than, one, it's a sign of the times, a Freudian slip if you wish, the unrequited longing for love, the insatiability of desire, the emptiness of easy emotions, of ritualistic unfulfilment. In the capital of India, though, there is a sensuous arrival of moist north winds from the Himalayas, where the snow is moving like a dream sequence. Post rain, the nip in the air reminds us of the absence of love, as much as the longing and presence of love. And like a character in a PD James novel, you can walk anonymous on lonely streets, looking for that crossroad when she will suddenly arrive and take you out for a drink to the nearest pub - near a fireplace maybe.
Pubs remind me of Mangalore and the mindless, masculine rabble rousers and goons of the Ram Sene etc, certainly an offshoot of the hydra-head Sangh Parivar of the Hindutva types. But pubs in the current post-spring scenario comes with a catch - the V Day: Valentine's Day.
Now we know too well, like the Mother's Day, or Father's Day, or Uncle and Aunty's Day, or the Sweetie-Cutie Doodie Doodle Puppy Poodle Day, the Valentine's Day has nothing to do with love or roses or spring or snow. First of all, these artificial 'Days' (what about nights?) never existed in the nomenclature of our festivals or rituals or annual landmarks, certainly not in the realm of our most private and intimate expressions of love or desire or longing. Not even in the school calendar of holidays, or like miraculous 'rainy days'. These are manufactured commodity fetishes celebrated by multinational and sundry local card companies, and various assorted gifts, flower-cartels, shopping malls, discos, hotels, restaurants and fast food joints. So much so that if a young stud doesn't choose to give an Archie card and a mushy candle-light dinner to his love-dove-babe on V Day, she might take offence. While the corporate industry and the 'lifestyle media' celebrates this culture trap, the most intimate emotions and private spaces of young minds and bodies get caught in this political economy of commercialised love.
Nothing eclectic or innocent about it. Love as a commodity. Love for sale. Buy one get two free or vice versa. Love to be consumed on a particular day. Love to be purchased in the nearest shop. Love in the marketplace. Love to be measured in the competitive value system of how much money you can spend on that babe you dig. While we all know that after all, a rose is a rose is a rose. And Be Mine Forever or Forget Me Not are more metaphors. Bitter realism. Sweet and sour realism. Hence, this 'I Love You' seems a bit too concocted and badly cooked, isn't it, like chicken chowmeen with paneer masala gravy and raw onions, cucumber and carrots, eaten with chopsticks.
This is where the pub syndrome enters. And the Valentine Day becomes an uncanny coincidence. The flip side is that the attack on the pub by the Taliban Hindutva gangsters have triggered a new wave of urban politics: the Valentine's Day has been turned upside down into large-scale protests against the fanatic moral police, which is basically anti-woman and anti-free love (and let's not even mention the 'F' word, or the debate on Free Sex or the Bra-burning feminist epoch in the West.)
Hardnews reports the flip side of this new politics is in ample display and this might turn the tables on all the puritanic senas, including the private goons of the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackerary's MNS. The All India SC/ST Federation and the Indian Justice Party led by Dalit leader Udit Raj and other women leaders have called for mass celebration of Valentine's Day at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. This is like showing a red flag to the bullish MNS/Shiv/Ram Sena, and miscellaneous BJP/RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal outfits. (In Delhi, the Shiv Sena has split into another hardline group due to 'ideological' differences - how much more funny can it get!) The SC/ST Federation's woman leader, Sarika Singh, in a SMS and e-mail campaign, has warned that anybody who dares to oppose this celebration on Valentine's Day will be decisively attacked with shoes and chappals. That's interesting: You can actually spot the Bush-Zaidi shoe angle in that famous episode in Baghdad recently, celebrated all over the world. Besides, this is great picture possibility: Dalits celebrating love in the time of Hindutva, counter protests by Sena/VHP goons, and then they getting a good footwear thrashing by Dalit women as a grand public spectacle. Lovely!
Meanwhile, radical Left students' groups like the All India Students' Association (AISA - which runs the JNU Students' Union) have invited students from JNU, Jamia and elsewhere, writers', artists, poets, journalists, and of course young lovers, on the eve of Valentine's Day, to celebrate 'The Right to Love and Freedom to Live'. Arundhati Roy, among others, are going to read out poems and literature to celebrate the freedom to love and live under the Vivekananda Statue at Delhi University. Not bad you see - even the radical Left is out to subvert the 'capitalist' 'V Day' to cock a snook at the Hindutva moral police!
Meanwhile, the 'pink chaddi' campaign led by subversive, liberated and rather forthright urban women has already hit the 15,000 mark. There's even a debate going -- if this is truly a Gandhian campaign, it being so combative and not so shy or coy or blushing. So why should women be meant to be eternally shy and coy and blushing all the time, while men are supposed to be macho and patriarchal and worldly wise?
So here's wishing more power to the 'pink revolution', with or without frills, with or without the 'V'. This is where it should hurt the nickerwallahs most - the male, moronic misogynist, mobsters who attacked young girls in the pub in Mangalore.
Now I can truly say, without hesitation or despair: True. Love's truly in the air