The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Culture cops howl as V-Day extends to week

New Delhi, Feb. 12: Religion sells. But love sells more. Saint Valentine, the patron saint for all Cupid-struck, might not take it kindly but that has not stopped marketing whizkids from cashing in on his name.

But the usual suspect, the Hindutva brigade, plans to play spoilsport. Swadeshi Jagran Manch activist Vidyananda Acharya said: “We have formed several units, which have been given the mandate to oppose anything objectionable to Indian culture happening on Valentine’s Day.”

In the past, Swadeshi lobbyists have damaged card shops and demonstrated outside hotels and discotheques celebrating on that day. There have also been reports of scattered violence in co-educational schools celebrating V-Day in towns like Kanpur.

“Valentine’s Day is nothing but politics and conspiracy of Western culture led by the MNCs…. Through festivals like Valentine’s Day, they want to capture the Indian market. But we do not approve of commercialisation and vulgarity in the name of love. We would rather promote our desi festivals like Vasantotsava, Vasant Panchami and Kaumudi Mahotsava,” Acharya said.

Hordes of Valentine’s Day cards, described as vulgar and demeaning to women, were burnt by Shiv Sena activists, who staged a demonstration.

The protests do not appear to have made an impact. Archies Greetings & Gifts Limited, which has been promoting Valentine’s Day for a long time, has gone a step further this time and introduced the Valentine’s Week theme.

“Most of the hotels are extending Valentine’s Day celebrations by a week. The celebration is very important for us as this year it is estimated to account for about six per cent of our turnover, amounting to about Rs 5 crore. This will work out to a 10 per cent growth in Valentine’s Day sales,” said Manjit Singh Narula, general manager marketing, Archies.

“There is no vulgarity involved, we are only promoting the expression of love, which apart from lovers can also be between friends and family members,” he added.

As far as commercialisation of love is concerned, Narula said: “We are not making any special products. Cards after all are our bread and butter.”

Greetings, novelties, flowers, cosy dinner tables at restaurants, designer jewellery, clothes and cosmetics — all seem to have spotted a salesman in Valentine. The newspapers are full of colourful advertisements, while English movie channels are beaming romantic films for a week and, in some cases, for a month. Multiplexes like PVR are running contests promising cars and other gifts, not to mention free tickets.

Most five-star hotels in the city have come up with theme menus and events — Park Royal has a “steam boat” menu, where a special soup dish comes with a burner underneath. There are also sea food and chicken dishes that lovebirds can cook together, making their pockets lighter by Rs 975 to Rs 1,300.

Abha Negi, director, public relations, Park Royal, said: “Over the years, the celebration of V-Day in hotels has increased and has come to a feverish pitch. It is more like a business opportunity and everyone, from the roadside vendor selling heart-shaped balloons to Archies and the hotels, want to make a pie out of it.”

She admits that this is over-commercialisation but adds that the phenomenon is a global one.

There is no dearth of themes attached to Valentine’s Day. Watch major Swatch is organising a singles bash to let them intermingle on February 14 through a contest. The recently launched international range of make-up Streetwear is also holding a party along with Indiatimes.

Tanishq and Intergold are coming up with special theme jewellery in gold and diamond, respectively, while Swarovski is not far behind in “romancing the stone”.

“There is a spurt in expensive cards and that’s why our upper range has been extended to cards that cost Rs 400 each,” said Narula. The usual range is between Rs 16-200. Archies, which sells its products through about 20,000 retailers and 1,700 franchisee stores, has also come up with 500 designs this year — about 17 in Hindi and 40 in Marathi.

“If it were not commerce, the V-Day celebrations would not have remained confined to the English-educated urban youth,” a member of an NGO said.

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