Isn’t it ironic to see the romantic confessions made within those four walls fall silent in public when all you want to do is scream about how much that person means to you? Seems quite perplexing. Read to find out more.
Since time immemorial, India has existed in a constant state of “Log Kya Kahenge?”. From when we were students in a school to now when we are students in a college, Indian teenagers and young adults have washed their hands off the freedom of individualistic romance in a very paradoxical sense. When we talk about romantic relationships— specifically relationships that exist outside the rigidly set arranged marriage norms— we attract uninvited wrath, not just from our immediate family (who could be believed to be just showing their concern for us), but also from our extended family, the neighbours, and society in general. Ironically enough, in India, the number of people concerned about your life and choices is almost always more than the people you know.
Our generation has constantly been trying to address concerns like sexuality or sex-positivity in our homes and our families when most of them aren’t even able to accept the concept of emotional attachment beyond the platonic. How do we even get ourselves to talk about PDA’s problem (or lack) in India when affection in a very private setting is also shunned?
Society acts as if we live inside a typical Bollywood cinematic experience where we can only subscribe to a single stereotypical character trope. This complexity leads to most young adults in India leading a double life (and no, it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds). One personality is donned when in familial circles, around people who might gossip. Then that same gossip gets delivered right to your home, another which is the true manifestation of your realities and desires and freedom, the one that rarely gets to show itself.
In Indian households you just condition yourself to be okay with dealing with relationship problems or heartbreaks alone because you CAN NOT talk to your parents about it. It’s not only about society’s judgement, but a major part is just the judgement and shame you get from your own family. It just ends up making things so suffocating.” –a first-year student, anonymous (case in point).
This emotional and mental stress an individual has to go through, not because of the relationship itself, but the ensuing lack of acceptance and the shame attached to it, becomes the seed of more significant issues— self-doubt, anxiety, depression (Dr Nair to The Swaddle); but the problem is not limited to this. This rigidity and retrogression trigger an even bigger issue— the direct involvement of society.
Valentine’s Day is seemingly the best opportunity to let your partner hold your hand and walk by your side. Yet, for some, the agenda of that day is far away from the thoughts of adoration. While it is believed that love has no religion and is free of any biases, some states in the country have certainly overruled this belief. For starters, the infamous “Love Jihad” law or the UP (Uttar Pradesh) Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh 2020 (prohibition of unlawful religious conversion) states that a marriage will be considered null and void if the sheer purpose of that marriage was to change the girl’s religion. Rather than being guided by the thought of protection, this law sows the seeds of injustice. There is no concrete evidence to support this heinous act, but it is merely an act perpetrated by the “Hinduistic” feelings. Under this law, the Lucknow police got the authority not to let Raina Gupta and Mohammad Asif cherish their togetherness even when the families agreed. The Muslim community of the country is already under religious persecution. Yet, not only are they getting harassed under the law, but the interfaith couples who were married long before its enactment are subjected to a questionable amount of harassment. Apart from UP, this law is present in Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, Haryana, and Karnataka have expressed their intentions to follow the same path.
If this law seems too much to digest, then what would be your thoughts on Hindu far right-wing groups who target couples, especially on Valentine’s day, and resort to violence to teach them a lesson for their “unacceptable” act of love in the public eye? These anti-valentines day groups believe in the “saintly” power that marriage holds, and it is an “offence” to indulge in “love” or “physical relation” before it. If these groups find someone who opposes this mindset, they resort to violence to make it “right.” It has become a tradition for the groups like Bajrang Dal, Sri Ram Sena, Shakti Sena, or Bharat Sena to punish people indulging in acts of love that, according to them, belong behind closed doors. The Hindu Sena had previously issued a notice in Delhi stating that if they caught any couple indulging in obscenity, they would be handed to the police. Meanwhile, the Hyderabad unit of Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) (group formed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Samiti (RSS), the parent group of Bharatiya Janata Party) gave out the statement that if they found any couple wandering, they will be given a lecture on patriotism.
The irony is that people are said to be free yet are expected to act “cowardly.” People become embodiments of coward demons, and when we say the word “demon,” we imagine longhorns, red skin, a trident in their hand; so why have we resorted to such a distorted version of emotions? Why have we chosen to demonise love?
Ankita Baidya & Manasvi Kadian