Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day in Other Places

IndiaMy parents live in Bangalore, India where they are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They'll be coming home in July after three years of living abroad and they've traveled as far north as Nepal and as far south as Sri Lanka and everywhere in between.

They're always out and about, on the road visiting the different groups of missionaries they oversee and while I was talking with them last week my father said that while they've loved the experience and the people they've met they won't miss worrying about the safety of those they supervise.

"Take Valentine's Day, for example," my father said. "In India there is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) political party for extremist Hindus--people call them the 'Hindu Taliban'--and they're extremely anti-Christian. There have been all sorts of violent confrontations between the BJP and Christians in India and for some reason they've centered a lot of their hatred on Valentine's Day."

"What do you mean 'Valentine's Day'?" I asked.

"Well they call it 'Lovers' Day' and they won't allow people to celebrate it. As they've become more powerful groups will go out in the city looking for women they feel aren't dressed modestly or whose behavior is objectionable, even couples who might be out dating. Last year they went into some bars where there were single women and dragged them outside by their hair. In another area they found some young men and women out together and dragged them to a nearby temple and forced them to marry. If they don't like what you're doing they'll beat you as their idea of justice.

"It's become worse and worse and women in India have tried to fight it. A group of them got together and sent party leaders a bunch of thongs in protest and it got some publicity but still there isn't much citizens can do. If they don't like how you're dressed or that you're out of your house on Valentine's Day you might get targeted."

"So what do you do?"

"Well I just have everyone stay home on Valentine's Day," he said.

Of course this is just one story of life in India and don't let it put you off as representative of what every one of the 1.1 billion people there are like, my parents have loved their time there, but the point is that we too often take our simple, safe lives for granted. If I want to go out on Valentine's Day with my husband I can, if I want to go out by myself I can. If I want to go out scantily dressed (heaven help me!) I can even do that. The greatness of a society comes from individuals having the freedom to choose their lives, then choosing good.

I grumble about paying taxes, I grumble about laws I don't like, I grumble about politicians but if I put half the energy I put into complaining into gratitude for what I have I think I'd find happiness that much more attainable.

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jean said...

I just heard about this sort of violence on Valentine's Day. It seems so odd to me, unbelievable really, since it's not something we, as Americans, have to worry about. As much as I hated Valentine's Day when I was single, it would never have occurred to me to punish others for celebrating it. So sad.

Lynn said...

My mum is in the Cape Verde Islands on an LDS medical mission. She oversees the health of all the missionaries in the CVI. She will be back in August. Although CV doesn't have the political instability and violence as in India, Mom says she will never again take what she has at home for granted. And yes, she also is concerned every day for keeping "her" missionaries safe. Thank goodness for senior missionaries. How blessed the young missionaries are to be the recipients of their service and love.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

My husband just got back from India last week (Kerala, specifically. Which to my knowledge, is not experiencing any turmoil or violence) Yes, I can see even subtle changes in him, even though he IS Indian and grew up there. I think, with each trip and the fact that our children are a little older, he simply "sees" more. For example, after this last trip, he has come back a new vision towards us getting our kids out of Kansas City more often for trips - previously, he thought travel was useless.

I am not sure if this makes sense or not.

Nice post - thank you for pointing out that this was "slice of life" of a small part of India!

Anonymous said...

I remember once discussing V Day with a group of Muslim friends in Mauritania. One said to me, "I couldn't go out in public with a man who wasn't my husband, and once we're married, we just wouldn't." It was kinda sad from my perspective. They wouldn't be hassled by groups of thugs in Mauritania; it just wasn't done in the culture.

hoopty doopty said...

Well said! Many of us living in a free society take for granted something many in this world do not even have, basic safety. We should consider it a privilege and we don't. We are so very blessed.

Daisy said...

Then there was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, otherwise known as the elementary school Valentine Party....gah! I'd dearly love to outlaw school parties with no purpose, like this one.

Kudos to your parents for giving their time to their mission!

Staci said...

Wow...really puts things into perspective. Thanks for sharing!

Lori said...

I've been thinking about going to Gujarat with my friend in summer of 2011. It's a bit different than Bangalore, a little more diverse, but still not like San Francisco (how my friend had described it). Money and religion seem to be the cause of the problems there.

Funnily enough the only time I've ever been asked to leave a place was at a dance put on by my friend's Church that I attended with a friend. I wore a cap sleeved shirt with a skirt and was told that my shirt was inappropriate. My friend's sister loaned me a cardigan so he still got to go to the dance, but it was a learning experience. Wear long sleeves to a Mormon wedding?

Daisy said...

Happy Valentine's Weekend! There's an award for you on Compost Happens today. Enjoy the sunshine where you can find it.

Apple Pie said...

My girls and I are reading a fictional book that takes place in India - Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan.

It has perked an interest in wanting to learn more about India.

Enjoyed reading your post.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Callista said...

That's horrible! I'm linking to this post tomorrow.

Anwesha said...

I am one of your blog readers,In try to catch up on your blogs on weekends and I am from India.My name is Anwesha.
I just wanted to say ,reading this made me feel happy ,sad all together.A weird connection.Not one I would want to share with you.But I was in the states for about 2 years and came back 4 months back to my country.
I am not able to relate to this change and this compromised sense of freedom anymore.I feel violated when a political party wants to intrude into my freedom of expression.I feel helpless and want to escape.Nothing of any tragic sort has ever happened with me,but I can only imagine the helplessness of people who feel threatened.
I really value everyday life and our choices and liberties.I just think we all do not start out equal.while we cannot rant about it,we just have to appreciate little things.
Thank you for adding at the end also that not every Indian thinks that way.Cos we really do not.
Love from India,

Scribbit said...

Nice to meet you Anwesha--I appreciate someone who knows more about the situation than I do having something to say.

I'm looking forward to visiting your country next month, we'll be seeing my parents for a few weeks and they're excited to take us around to see all the places and people they've loved for the last three years.

Katie Fladlien said...

Hello Dear,

I read your post. I understand your ideas about India are based on what you have been told, I have a different opinion all together. Having travelled all through out the world for nearly a decade, my judgement is that every country has has its own set of rules and its kidda funny when we hear about one of the incidents and make them look like the only things happening there.

Laurel Nelson said...

Your parents probably know some people in our ward who are in India on their mission too. The Fairbanks(es?) I was just looking at our ward program for the day earlier and they were listed with the others from our ward. Funny that your parents are in India too.

Scribbit said...

Well actually it's not much of a coincidence, Mom and Dad requested the Fairbanks when they were putting in their papers. They've done that with a bunch of people so there is a strangely disproportionate Alaska contingency in India. They tried to get Oriens but there was a visa issue I believe.

Stephanie said...

A good dose of "perspective" is always appreciated. Thank you, Michelle.

The USA really is a wonderful place to be.

Unknown said...

You have now got me thinking..what would be the American version of the Taliban?

I think it's the crazy people who just go and shoot up places. Remember the DC sniper...he had the whole city running criss cross through parking lots for weeks (including my sister).

thank goodness our threats aren't as organized..we should all be grateful for the mental illnesses that keep people from joining others' crazed acts of violence. (how is that for trying to look through rosy glasses)

We had a teacher at a local elementary school stay after school last week and shoot his principal and vice principal, who is still in critical condition. And he was teaching a 4th grade class just hours before. I sometimes think that is even more damaging than international terrorist groups.

But, I am glad that we live in America, even if I am still afraid for my children every day that they go to school.

And I guess I am the naysayer..and it may be because we never go out on Valentine's Day anyway. And we never buy the overpriced flowers or candy. :)

Good food for thought.

Have a great time in India. What an awesome experience.

Jane Hamilton said...

Hey Michelle, it's really nice of you to share such insights with your readers. Thanks especially for saying that not all Indians are like the people you mentioned. I guess it helps to have first hand info from your parents about India. In truth, India is made up of really nice people. Unfortunately, our peace and happiness is sometimes ruined by anti-social elements like the political party mentioned in your post.

What I really wanted to highlight here, is that social media is so wonderful in bringing together people from different places on the globe together, and letting them share experiences and feelings from the depth of their hearts like this.

Great work Michelle. Visit us in Tamil Nadu. It is much more peaceful here, I assure you. :)