The trends underlying this phenomenon are
- At least let me experiment! Young Indians are willing to experiment with their cultural outlook. They are no longer happy with just being told what is right culturally, and wish to try out their own versions of a new cultural reality. So, while their parents (in many cases) may be ultra-conservative, many young Indians want to at least 'have a taste' of what this new expression really stands for. In a society that has never had an armed revolution on a large scale through mainstream society (Naxalites are not mainstream), this is possibly the biggest outpouring of a non-violent yet assertive revolution of young Indians. "We want to try this new thing out, and you don't interfere" seems to be the message. Learning : Each generation will have its version of a revolution, and Valentine's Day celebration surely qualifies for this period.
- The great Indian decency What surprises me each February is not that so many young Indians want to celebrate this special day, but the amazing decency with which the entire day passes by. Given the scope and size of the festival, we hardly witness a substantial number of incidents that will truly qualify as indecent. I am totally certain that on any other regular day in India, there will be far more indecency (some forced, some voluntary) on the streets. So the issue is not specific, it is generic. Learning : Never underestimate the inherent goodness of people, especially young ones. They are far more likely to be decently behaved if given the freedom to enjoy the day. Yes, risks are always there, but if you can trust them with electing the government of this country, then where is the problem! And if you have a particular problem with your own kids, do not generalise it for the rest.
- The power of market forces Market forces are pretty smart. They smell out opportunities, and encash them quickly. Greeting card makers, Restaurants, Clubs, Farmhouses, Pool-parlours, Video-gaming parlours, Malls .. they all realise that this is one day they can significantly enhance their revenues on. In a society that is hugely driven by a desire to do materially very well (why else do so many people do MBA courses for!), this market alignment is a natural extension. Learning : Market forces around the world have their unique ways of encashing social trends. Personally, I am against most of these. But I have to say - they are pretty smart people and know how to push their wares.
- The myth of invincibility A lasting fear in the minds of culture-vultures and moral police is that the new cultural norms (imported from West) may become more powerful and more deep-rooted than the original Indian festivals, traditions and cultural beliefs. Far from it! The reverse may happen. We are yet to witness the maturing of many of these "imported" traditions. It is highly possible that the Indian youth may simply ditch the entire concept of Valentine's Day celebrations in favour of something fancier, one fine day. It is a grand myth to assume that these "imported" festivals are permanent. They are not. They seem to be so, however, in the short run, only because they are strongly providing an avenue to a lot of youngsters to express their latent desires. Learning : Wait and watch! You may be in for a surprise.
- Indianisation is inevitable While the above myth indicates the vulnerability of such festivals, one thing is totally certain - every foreign thing - foren thingy - that gets accepted by India will be rapidly Indianised. It has happened with music, and we see it with food (I am sure we all have tried Indianised versions of western foods!). The same thing is happening with Valentine's Day as well. Indian mothers are wishing their kids "happy Valentine's Day Beta", and kids are reciprocating with all happiness and glee! This is so beautiful to see. It is a perfect rendition of the age-old belief that culture evolves naturally, and is the most spontaneous expression of people who live it, rather than those who enforce it. Learning : The day may not be far off when the Indian version of Valentine's Day may attack the West with full force!
As for me, for this Valentine's Day my wife tersely informed me that she alongwith her friends (9 more ladies from a club) are out on a picnic the whole day. I am to take care of both the kids, at home. So much for Valentine's Day celebrations, more than a decade after marriage.
Maybe now I understand why some people hate this day. Ha ha - Valentine's Day hai hai