Valentine’s Day, Indian Style
Mukti Banerjee, muktiskitchen.com
Today, it’s very Americanized when it comes to celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Thanks to Indian and multinational corporate media, every American thing is glorified across India, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. American food such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC are now fancy items on Indian dinner tables, and even our own families and friends would not pay attention to us warning them about the junk food culture.
When educated, enlightened America is celebrating Indian food and spices, yoga and meditation to keep healthy, Indian families especially in cities are gulping down everything we here in America consider toxic.
While there is nothing wrong in celebrating wonderful holidays imported from around the world, and I am definitely not the one who would scream “India, India” the “USA, USA” way, I am greatly disturbed to see how the colorful, vibrant and extremely diverse Indian lifestyle is being sacrificed in the name of globalization, which is really Americanization.
The elements of Indianness have become a matter of the past, again, especially in the cities. But it is creeping in to the countryside too. The younger generation in particular is growing up in a cultural void.
When we grew up, we didn’t know about either Valentine’s Day, or McDonald’s. We were happy and content with celebrating our Durga Puja, Indian New Year’s Days which are also diverse based on where you live in the country, and colorful cultural festivals such as Diwali and Holi. Then in Bengal where I came from, poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday was a major celebration. We would sing his songs, recite his poems, and visit his ancestral home in Kolkata and the national university he founded in Shanti Niketan.
And we would devour Indian food – also incredibly diverse in different parts of the country.
Instead of Valentine’s Day, we would celebrate our wedding anniversaries – with food, flower and music. We would have our homes decorated with painted illustrations on the wall, and our women would wear beautiful silk sarees that come in countless colors and styles. Men would also decorate themselves as much as possible with silk kurta and all, although God has favored women with beauty and style, and men can’t make up the deficiency at all.
We moved to America in mid-80s, and brought our Indianness with us. We gave our identity to our children, and now they are also grown up. It’s a delicate balance they play between the culture they have acquired from America – their country of birth, and India where their parents came from. We look at them with awe how they balance it so effortlessly.
On Valentine’s Day, my son-in-law – a Punjabi Hindu – cooks for my Bengali daughter (and saves for her special time away from their two-year-old child), cleans and mops to make their little Long Island home as beautiful as possible. They eat their dinner together, and sit in front of the TV to watch a movie they both like.
A mid-winter frigid cold suddenly thaws with their warmth of love and affection for each other.
Here in Brooklyn, we the older couple basically do the same thing. They watch their favorite movies, and we watch ours.
Thinking about it, I wonder, was the Holiday of Love set purposefully around this time?
Happy Valentine’s Day to all. Celebrate love and life.
Food, flower, and music and movies – and that too, made at home. Nothing can better this lovely way of celebration. No McDonald’s, KFC or Burger King can beat it.
Valentine’s Day, Indian Style