The tension in the city was palpable as the “Vivah Raath” (marriage chariot), manned by the fighting wings of the Bajrang Dal, (the Dharma Sena [not to be confused with a certain “Kumara” i.e. bachelor Sri Lankan cricketer] and the Durga Bahini [not to be confused with Mamata Banerjee’s followers]) rolled through town.
As they shouted anti-Valentine Day slogans and made a bonfire of cards and cute red teddy bears, I caught up with a particularly ferocious activist who declined to give his name, insisting we address him as simply “Bajrangi”.
When I asked Bajrangi whether this Vivah raath was some kind of publicity vehicle for the movie “Vivaah“, he said:
“No way. We are catching couples in public places and are giving them an option: either get married on the Vivah raath or make the guy tie a Rakhi around the girl and become brother-sister. And please no high-falutin “individual rights” arguments here, as a concerned moral guardian of the nation, mujhe haq hain. End of story.”
“Why only “laowers” or brother-sister? Cannot a man and a womanÂ be just friends?”
“Have you not heard that line from Maine Pyar Kiya? Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahin ban sakte!! Yeh to ek bahana hain tadpati raaton main bharakti jismon ki dhadakhti aag bujhane ka”
Before I could interject, Bajrangi started yelping.
“I really do not understand why you people do not get it. I really do not. If displaying wealth in front of those who do not have it is obscene, so is flaunting your girl-friend in front of so many of us consigned to eternal bachelorhood. While these lovers stroke each other’s hands in full public view, how do you think we, whose hands have nothing else to stroke except ourselves, feel? If we cannot enjoy, why should we let anyone else ?”
“And it is not just stroking hands sir. Look at this.”
Owner of another prominent restaurant Amantran in Kidwai Nagar Rajeev Gupta said that because of the threats issued he would take extra care and ensure that couples did not get intimate on his premises.
“Sir, these couples are getting intimate in restaurants ! They are sipping from same cold drink bottle, looking into each other’s eyes, playing footsie under table and not even tipping the waiter. How can I take my parents and go to such a place any more? Look at the picture above sir. “Heart-shaped” balloons being sold—balloons for adults? Next these amorous people will be playing with toys …has anyone ever heard of that before ?
I tell you sir. At the rate things are being perverted, soon there will be no difference between us humans and dogs. Wait. There already is not.
Even pets had it good, with the tailwaggers animal salon playing cupid to “dog couples”, offering them free aroma therapy sessions.
Interrupting his frothing rant, I asked him the next question.
“So why this tension all over the city? This looks like a scene from Fallujah.”
“Sir, this is Kurukshetra. On one hand, are the forces of good: namely us and Dukhtaran-e-Millat and the coalition of the unwilling called Forum Against Social Evils (FASE). And on the other hand, armed to the teeth with mace and batons, and fortified by money from evil corporations like Hallmarks, Archies are these heinous merchants of immorality who, unlike us, are openly talking about taking the law into their own hands:
Two women’s groups, belonging to the Sawarna Samaaj Party (SSP) and the Rashtriya Secular Manch (RSM), have decided to take on those threatening to oppose Valentine’s Day celebrations in the state, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
If the SSP is threatening Bajrang Dal members with a mace (lord Hanuman’s weapon), the RSM has decided to form baton-wielding groups of women to dissuade Bajrang Dal activists from disrupting lovers on Wednesday.
“These women will provide the necessary security to citizens if the state government fails to do so,” said RSM convenor Chandna Arora. “We will follow the Bajrang Dal workers on February 14 to prevent them from misbehaving with lovers.”
The Congress’ student wing National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) has also decided to oppose “any act of the Bajrangis”.
“NSUI workers would first give roses to Bajrang Dal workers while requesting them not to disturb anyone. Then they would inform the police in case anyone is harassed and lastly take the law into their own hands if the police fails to act,” said NSUI state secretary Abhay Kushal Tiwari.
The NSUI has formed teams to defend lovers in case of harassment and even launched a helpline.
And then it happened. An assault party from the Sawarana Samaj Party started hurling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) which burst open releasing rose thorns, hot caramel and debris from broken perfume bottles everywhere. As several anti-Valentine day activists rolled on the ground, clutching their hearts and screaming in pain, my friend the Bajrangi said:
“Sorry interview over. Vivah raath under attack.”
And then swinging an enormous rakhi over his head like a hunter whip, he ran into the “red zone” of battle.
One more martyr for the cause of love.
[Images courtesy CNN-IBN and Rediff]