So Valentines day is coming. Yes that's right the 14th of Feb is just around the corner, and signs of the day to come are all around the city of Karachi. To cash in, so many companies big and small are spending good money on getting their advertising message across to the audience they hope would be celebrating the day. Whether their huge outdoor hoardings, print adverts or those appearing on prime time television, the spirit of Valentines day is definitely in the air, especially for the marketers. Among the campaigns dished out through different mediums this year, one that marketing campaign that really stands out is the one done by Cadbury for their signature flagship Dairy Milk chocolate brand. In the advertisement on television they show a young man who manages to get his message across to the girl he seeks by passing the chocolate with a Valentines day message across the class room, in the process, all but one piece of the chocolate gets eaten up. The last piece manages to get the job done, the boy's message gets communicated to the girl, and the marketing agency behind this advertisement is successful in getting their message across to their target audience. This TV advert has been brilliantly complimented by outdoor and print advertisements. Cadbury Pakistan has also redone its packaging on its range of Dairy Milk products. Whether its your brilliantly made television advertisement by Cadbury for their flagship dairy or some other brand, no escaping Valentines Day. There is also no escaping the other kind of attention this day manages to attract.
Not that I was totally surprised to see what I saw, especially considering the route that society in Pakistan is taking. I did manage to take a snap of what I saw at a very busy Chowrangi (Roundabout) in the Bahadrabad area of Karachi. For those on the other side of the bridge, its about 7 odd KM's from you all live, rest of Karachi probably knows how busy this chowrangi is. It is not uncommon for one to find hoardings, sponsored TV shows or advertisements (both print and broadcast) aimed at getting a certain message across at a certain time of the year. This advertising message was aimed for the purpose of defaming and demonizing Valentines day with carefully selected extracts and references from religious sources. Do not be surprised people if on the actual day, you seen tens of thousands of both men and women out on the streets burning symbols of Valentines Day like Teddy Bears, Flowers and other various trinkets.. It has happened before and I suspect it will happen again.
The pic above I snapped with my cell phone camera as I was passing by Bahadrabad Chowrangi in my car.
Not that I have a particular opinion on Valentines day etc, rather to point out to those in opposition to the celebration of the day that make it sound as if all hell will break loose if this day is celebrated. The apocalypse will descend upon us immediately as a grave act of shameless sinfulness is being committed in a country occasionally titled land of the pure. I wrote a blog early on a similar line in which I referred how the religious right and the growing conservative lot (especially the new lot) in our urban societies go paranoid crazy about the thought of any communication of any sorts between members of the opposite sex who are either not related or married to one another. They believe any contact of any kind between genders is a sin waiting to happen and hence it should be prevented. Same reaction to Valentines Day, reactions suggest delusions on similar lines that a catastrophe is waiting to happen should this occasion be celebrated. Frankly speaking, those who wish to celebrate it should be free to do so, and those who do not want to celebrate it should be free to keep their distance from it. I how ever do not see the point of paying good amounts of cash on advertisements meant to demonize the day. A lot of it stems from our culture of moral policing which goes hand in hand with widespread hypocritical attitudes not uncommon to people of Pakistan. The same religious right who demonizes Valentines day, among so many of them you will also find people who do not even blink an eye when violation of human rights or abuse of some sort or the other is common in our society
I do not want sound like I am judgmental prick, but what I am about to communicate can not be done without sounding atleast borderline judgmental. It is this very same right wing religious lot in our society that has started demonizing everything and anything, and everyone and anyone who does not adhere to their ultra conservative Wahabi influenced school of thought. They argue its not their school of thought, rather it is the will of God to look down upon people and discriminate people based on how rigidly people practice religion or not, too much emphasis on symbolic rituals and practices. Do not be surprised, if you also come across people who will get offended because you turned down an invitation to offer Salat (prayer) in congregation with them, because trust me I have and that too on multiple occasions. In a nutshell it is very difficult for such people to come to terms with the reality not everyone is religious, people by not being religious are just exercising their God given FREE WILL. I could be wrong but part of me believes that for the religious conservative lot, especially those new to that way of life, it is very difficult to come to terms with leaving a life behind for the pursuit of religious devotion while others around them are still living their lives business as usual. In other words, people are experiencing worldly life (their choice of words) while they have left everything behind for spirituality. If they had truly left everything behind, their not would be this feeling of missing out on life by seeing others pick and choose how they deem fit to live. Just look at the image above and read the words, they have openly declared Valentines day as something evil and immoral and that this celebration is insensitive to Islamic values and followers of Islam. If that isn't also judgmental, please correct me if I am wrong. I for the time being have said what I wanted to say, they have a right to their opinion but no right to enforce it on others or even demonize millions based on personal sentiments. I would probably get a lot of votes from secularists for saying that those opposed to it are not really against it for cultural or religious reasons, rather cause their not part of the whole festivities and celebrations, only time will tell.