#NoBarForPyaar: Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Need Divine Intervention
Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. While I was hoping to celebrate a day of love, giddy with joy, grinning ear to ear feeling weightless…I was left…dateless. I mean I had to eat khajoor, just so I could tell people I had a date on Valentine’s Day! (Ok, I admit that was a thakela joke from a silly Whatsapp forward) I’m a hopeless romantic. The kind that likes movie style romances with a good measure of song and dance thrown in. My dream is for my man to organise a flash mob for me to declare his love. Something like this scene from Friends with Benefits:
Of course Valentine’s Day comes with just a dash of desi flavour in India every year. From crackdowns on couples to burning paper hearts, right wing politicians have tried to disrupt Valentine’s Day celebrations in several, sometimes creative, but most often predictable ways. Law enforcement authorities have chipped in too. While many cops help uphold the rights of consenting adults, others have gone laathi happy on our young Romeos and Juliets. By the way, our friends from across the border are also asserting their sanskaars this year with people, especially youngsters being asked to refrain from celebrating Valentine’s Day in Pakistan. Guys, if you want to agree with us on something, agree on a solution to the half a century old border dispute…na? Don’t go about banning stuff. Leave that to us Indians!
This year though, there was a dash of what I’d like to call Divine Comedy (no offence to Dante) with respect to Valentine’s Day in India. Self styled godman Asaram Bapu can be seen smiling beatifically on posters across Delhi and Mumbai as a group called Bal Sanskar Kendra urged children and young adults to celebrate Feb 14th as Matri Pitri Pujan Diwas! While I believe that one should love their parents and show them respect and gratitude, I have a few problems with this poster and its proposition.
Why Can’t We Just Accept and Celebrate a Day of Love, Even if it’s a Western Concept?
First being that it claims that Valentine’s Day isn’t a part of our culture. Guys, culture is not a static concept. Culture is dynamic and evolves constantly, as does mankind. India has seen people from different cultures come and make it their home. While some people came as invaders and colonisers, others came in as refugees, fleeing persecution in their homelands. We have welcomed them and taken some of the best parts of their culture and made it our own. Look as Samosas and Jalebis. Samosas are an Arabic dish originally named Sambusa. Jalebis are Persian Zalibiya. Yet we dig into them and often make our own versions of them. Any Mumbaikar would swear by his Samosa Pao! So why is it so hard to accept and celebrate a day of love?
Why is Romantic Love Considered to Be Lower Than the Love of Parents?
Secondly, why should only love of parents be recognised as ‘real’ love? Why is romantic love lower or lesser? Why are we culturally brainwashed into feeling that our romantic partners are expendable if we were to choose between them and our parents? Why should one have to choose? Why can’t love of all kinds co-exist? Why should anyone feel ashamed of expressing love for someone they have sex with? Do you have any idea how lucky you are to find someone who gives you that tingling sensation? Do you know how hard it is to find someone who feels the same about you? Do you know how rare a good orgasm is? If you have someone like that in your life, you should be able to celebrate their presence in your life without feeling guilty or afraid.
Why Are Parents Given a Divine Status When They’re Erring Humans, Just Like Us?
Finally, why should parents be deified? Parents are not gods. The divine status is accorded to them to wash away the shame of the role of sex in procreation. I think that’s absurd. I’d love to believe that I’m the product of love rather than the by-product of an arranged marriage, created to perpetuate my family name. Moreover, parents are human and it’s human to err. Many parents scar their children with their actions and choices.
Mother DOESN’T always know best and dads can often be complete douchebags! Sometimes parents willingly hurt children, thinking that they are acting in their offspring’s best interest. Haven’t you heard of honour killing? The best gift one can give their parents is to accept that parents are human. It makes it easier to accept them with all their faults and to eventually forgive them, if they deserve it. It also makes it easier to take necessary measures to correct their behaviour and hold them accountable for their actions, so that they can be punished as per the law of the land.
Valentine’s Day is not a bad thing. Celebrate it if you want to. If you think it is too commercial, hey, no one is pointing a gun to your head and asking you to splurge on roses and diamonds and cards. If your partner expects a gift, make them something special. Just don’t make a half hearted attempt. Yes, I know it’s the thought that counts, but people can tell when you never intended to succeed. Try something simple like order their favourite pizza and rent a DVD of their favourite movie and watch it together. Or take them on a long drive or just a walk in the park. Don’t feel ashamed of your feelings. Love is beautiful. Sex is delightful! (If it isn’t seek counselling)
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals. ‘Rainbow Man’ is Harish’s regular blog for The Quint)
(This story was first published on 15 February 2016 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives.)