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« The bird that made a big splash | Main | Robert Glaser, American Psychologist, 1921 - 2012 (Norman Costa) »

February 14, 2012


I'm on the whole a fan of the various Hallmark-holidays. There's something very healthy about festivals celebrating family, friends, community (basically things like harvest festivals and raksha bandhan/karva chaut - modulo the gender stuff - and Dussehra and Diwali nights and April Fools etc) that's missing from both the more prayerful, religiose stuff, and chest-thumping military parade nationalism efforts. And if we're going to demarcate days to celebrate anything at all, it seems like lovers, parents, siblings and friends are good places to start...

Karva chauth? That seems mindlessly backward to me, wives fasting for the 'husband's well-being', fast to be broken only after seeing the moon. And the mindless consumerism of expecting a gift/jewelry in exchange for maintaining the fast these days. Hallmark moment it is not.
Valentine's day takes on the same connotations, with more consumption of cards, chocolates and gifts involved. At least, this is just one day and the insanity on TV lasts perhaps a week before the next holiday shows up.

In my family we found raksha bandhan easy enough to modernize. kc needs work, but i don't think a makeover is that difficult.

Come to think of it, if Raksha Bandhan, Karva Chauth etc. were hyped enough, they might even displace the Valentine's day craze. Or have they already been hyped up enough in competition with the 'foreign import?. But Indians, having a penchant for adopting the occasional foreign craze, have happily taken to Valentine's day as worthy of inclusion in the ranks of Rakshabandhan, Karva chauth etc.
I wonder how much of this is driven by Bollywood, as well. Growing up in S.India, I don't remember Karva Chauth, Rakshabandhan or Holi being big deals, or even Ganesh Chaturthi. Maybe it is a N.India thing, with generous adherents in larger cities all round the country, where there are fairly large populations of those for whom these festivals have greater significance.

I'm pretty sure rb and kc are both northie things. rb was a part of my milieu because it's widely celebrated in Delhi schools. i've experienced kc only via neighbours. there was a lot of the woman-praying-for-husband stuff, but many of them were maintaining traditions, not finding some special female virtue in fasting for a husband. i know of cases where both husband and wife fasted too.

re foreign festivals etc, I think valentine's day is a special case, because the reason it's so fashionable isn't just its foreign origin, but the fact that it's a celebration of the romantic lover, quite typically among the unmarried. it's an expression of sexual mores at variance with those of the 'traditions' and 'values' brigade. you could hype up some old indian equivalent, and the VHP and RSS would still go crazy.

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