Tuesday, February 02, 2010

V-Day Looms on the Deccan Plateau

That salacious little bastard Cupid is threatening India, again. Each year he parks his fat little self somewhere over the Western Ghats, giggling wickedly, and attempts to incite “obscene and vulgar acts.” One spends delicious, pre-Valentine’s Day hours musing about the possibilities. And then thinking of ways to beat up the people engaged in them.

From today’s Pune Newsline, two weeks ahead of a day observed unironically in The West only by people under the actual or emotional age of sixteen:
Joint Commissioner of Police Rajendra Sonawane issued a press release on Monday listing what couples in love as well as those opposed to the celebration should not be doing between February 3 and 15.
(the full article is here; yes, that is in fact a picture of a pile of burning Valentine's Day Cards).

Sonawane’s approach is smart, as he’s issuing warnings on two fronts: on one hand, to those young people who might think, for example, of “doing vulgar acts;” on the other, to the fascistic thugs who have, in the recent past, attacked those in the first group. Naturally, what it means to “do a vulgar act” -- not to mention what it means to gather “in groups and disturb peace,”(another of the prohibited activities for the next two weeks) -- is pretty open to interpretation. I’m not sure a night goes by in India without people gathering in groups and making noise. I'm not even sure it's possible for this not to happen.

What all this actually amounts to is a perfect storm of things for nationalistic, identity-politics types to be outraged about. The day itself is not just associated with The West, but, ironically, Christianity; it can therefore be taken as the most objectionable sort of missionary imperialism. It is, moreover, understood to encourage “public show(s) of affection [between, I hasten to add, members of the opposite sex] tantamount to obscenity.” Far-right groups like the Shiv Sena and the (more moderate) BJP play on the widely clung-to delusion in India that Western women are sex-crazed and – their protests notwithstanding – enjoy, for example, being groped by rickshaw drivers, bureaucrats, grocery store security guards, whoever. Valentine’s Day is culturally foreign, it’s religiously foreign, and it’s going to lead to a wave of sex that will undermine our very Way of Life. That kind of stuff.

Anybody care to mail me some of those little hearts with the tacky messages? I can hide out somewhere here in the dark and read them. And then eat them. I'll be careful, I swear.

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