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MALLIKA ARYAL
INTERESTING TIMES
Two V-days


MALLIKA ARYAL


It was a glorious sunny day in Kathmandu last Saturday and the roads were deserted. Where was everyone? They were in Godavari, Tau Daha and Sundarijal and other picnic spots around the capital?all young couples holding hands or embracing. At Nag Pokhari there were at least six couples holding hands and cuddling on narrow benches around the pond. Even Pashupatinath was teeming with lovers.

Never has Valentine's Day been observed as passionately by young Nepali urbanites as this year. Card shops, department stores and restaurants displayed tacky hearts made of ribbon and fur outside their doors, heart-shaped balloons floating around.

V-Day coincided with the Maoists' own V-Day, the 14th anniversary of the war. But it was clear that Nepalis now want to make love, not war. St Valentine was even honoured in the cantonments where former guerrillas gave each other plastic roses.

FM radio RJs were busy relaying love messages, newspapers were either full of stories about 'super couples' or ads for Valentine's Day parties. Even Nepali language papers featured stories on what Valentine's Day meant for young Nepalis. V-day messages were blatant, and omnipresent. If everyone you know is planning 'something special' on prem dibas, it is difficult not to be curious or succumb to the mad frenzy of this consumer-driven event. For 15-year olds, peer pressure alone is enough.

There was a time not so long ago when eyebrows were raised if a girl and a boy were seen walking together. Satellite tv, Hindi soaps, Bollywood/Hollywood and music videos changed that. This change was not just for the younger generation but also for their parents, who spend considerable amounts of free time watching tv than the generation before did.

While Bollywood may be making parents and their kids more liberal, it is the sappy Korean love stories such as Six Years in Love and Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do that have become the shows that the new generation watch and emulate. Kathmandu's youth don't just dress like the Koreans they see on screen, but even behave like them.

Mobile phones are so cheap that every college-going kid has one. With SMS and MMS it is much easy to come together, communicate, meet new people and relay love messages.

Kathmandu is now much more densely packed than before. People in Kathmandu have less time to talk about (or to) each other. Today's teenagers have broken out of the mould of obsessing about upsetting family and neighbours and care less about what society thinks.

For someone who was raised in Kathmandu and left during adolescence, one thing that struck me on my return after living away was how comfortable young Nepali men and women were with each other.

It doesn't matter if Valentine's Day is western, or anti-revolutionary. Nepalis are creative and celebrate prem dibas their own way. Personally, I would rather see people displaying affection publicly than the moral police roaming around the city. This past weekend urban Nepalis were more enthusiastic about celebrating the anniversary of love than the anniversary of war.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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