A friend of mine from Los Angeles turned me on to the TV show Outsourced after he read my Facebook post last March about my daughter and I moving to India. I had never even heard of the show, but my daughter and I were hooked because it showed the funny side of life for an expat living in India. Some of the ‘only in India’ things that I had experienced during my job interview in Bangalore last year were highlighted in the very first episodes of the show and it really cracked me up to see them again on screen. When we arrived to the episode about Valentine’s Day I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was also a holiday that was celebrated in India.But is Valentine’s Day really celebrated in India? Hmmm, that depends on who you ask!
My Indian friends are about split down the middle on Valentine’s Day. Half of them are excited by the little injection of planned and expected romance. This is between both the men and women. I’ve received lots of sweet messages from mates, seen cute hearts adorning BBM status and FB updates and I have plans later for a Valentine’s Day champagne catch-up session with friends. The special guy in my life is out-of-town on business but he did send me an early morning Valentine’s message which I adored. I’ve seen lots of men and women walking around town today with roses and flowers in their hands. And at work we are having a special party with rose tossing games, cake and everyone was asked to wear red and white attire.
Then there is the flip side to Valentine’s Day in India. I have dear, dear friends who really have their panties in a bunch over this western holiday that seems to be permeating India more this year than in the past. They want their traditions upheld, and not the American greeting card and flower company traditions that hold no meaning for anyone in India. And I actually agree with them.
According to the papers and news, there are a lot of people who agree with this half of my friends too. There have been protests and rallies, which I find both inspiring and interesting. They rather remind me of the protests by the French a decade ago when the McDonald’s franchise first started entering the smaller towns. The people held protest demonstrations with signs that said “America keep you obesity at home” and other such messages. But try as they might, McDonald’s is all over France and the rest of the world… which isn’t really a benefit to anyone. Just like Valentine’s Day and the lack of value that it truly brings to India.
From what I understand from my limited research today, 75% of Indian parents take special care of their children today because they are worried about the effect that Valentine’s Day has on them. They are watching how their school-aged and college-aged kids are dressing, especially the girls. They check their school bags to ensure that they have not received inappropriate, unsolicited gifts. And most importantly they are keeping an extra special eagle-eye on them to ensure they don’t sneak off with a boy or girl for a walk or anything of the sort. This is not a western influence that they welcome with open arms at all.
Now, again, the flip side for the kids and parents lays with the international schools, like the one my daughter attends. They have a special rose delivery service for students who have pre-booked and pre-paid for roses that are delivered throughout the day as a Valentine to the boy or girl of their choice. I also know that the classmates who are dating at school make plans to surprise each other throughout the day. It is really quite different at the international schools and for me I find it quite sweet.
I did notice that the retail shops downtown were all pushing red clothing items, boxes of sweets and chocolates and even had flower and heart signage in their window displays to entice consumers to shop, shop, shop! Brands are spending a handsome figure on advertising to promote the holiday as well and encourage spending. And the clubs and bars in town are all hosting either a loved’up party or an anti-Valentine’s day singles party to drive traffic in through their doors on what is normally a slow Tuesday night.
And with all of that said, both the good and the bad, I have to be honest and say that the American in me still loves the damn holiday. I want to be surprised by sweet messages and have one day of super-charged romance thrust into my life in the middle of February. I can’t help it, the U.S. greeting card and flower companies brainwashed me from birth and it’s a part of my DNA now.
© 2012 Angela Carson