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Desi Satire: Indians Show No Love On Valentine’s Day

February 2007
Desi Satire: Indians Show No Love On Valentine’s Day

Many Indians will not observe Valentine's Day this year, but will instead participate in an Indian alternative called Balentine's Day.

As one journalist put it, "Balentine's Day is what you get when Valentine's Day meets Bal Thackeray."

Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief, has long opposed Valentine's Day, calling it "totally contrary to Indian culture" and a way for Western corporations to get rich off gullible Indians. Members of Shiv Sena and other right-wing groups have made it an annual ritual to attack stores selling Valentine's Day cards and disrupt activities commemorating the day.

Thackeray has thrown his support behind Balentine's Day, which replaces the annual Western day of love with an annual Eastern day of hate. "Whatever the West does, we must try to do the opposite," Thackeray said. "People express love every single day of the year, so why not have a special day for hate?"

Psychologist G. Balakrishnan of Chennai believes that Balentine's Day may actually be a healthier alternative to Valentine's Day. "Most of us feel hatred toward someone or something at one time or another," he said. "We are fairly good about expressing love, but we're not sure what to do with hate. We bottle it up and it festers within us. By expressing it in a harmless way once a year, we get rid of our ill feelings and make more room in our hearts for love."

Indian retailers expect to sell millions of Balentine's Day cards, most of them produced by an Indian company called Ballmark Cards. "I never thought it would be this popular," said Pramod Modha, owner of a Delhi card shop. "Some of my customers are buying dozens of cards. One of them said he's going to send a card to each member of the Indian cricket team."

Manoj Sharma, a Mumbai accountant, has already bought three cards. "It's such a great idea," he said. "I'm sending one to my ex-boss, one to my ex-wife and one to my ex-mother-in-law."

Flower shops and other stores will not sell roses on Balentine's Day, but will instead sell rose stems, with the thorns exposed. Sharma plans to send a thorny stem to his ex-wife, along with a card that says, "Roses are red, violets are blue, these stems are prickly, but not as prickly as you."

Encouraged by the response, Thackeray hopes Balentine's Day will eventually spread to Western countries. "Let them learn something from us for a change," said Thackeray, who expects to receive thousands of Balentine's Day cards.

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