Mumbai: Love, not saffron brigade, blossoms on Valentine's Day

mid-day reporters pose as a couple and take to the streets in Mumbai to test Hindutva outfits’ threats of marrying off couples seen celebrating Valentine's Day

The saffron brigade’s threat to marry off couples found celebrating Valentine’s Day seemed to have mattered little to the city’s lovebirds.

Two mid-day reporters posed as couple and travelled to a mall in Lower Parel, Worli, and Bandra Bandstand to test whether couples celebrating Valentine’s Day are targeted by Hindutva outfits. Pic/Shadab Khan
Two mid-day reporters posed as couple and travelled to a mall in Lower Parel, Worli, and Bandra Bandstand to test whether couples celebrating Valentine’s Day are targeted by Hindutva outfits. Pic/Shadab Khan

Couples turned out in large numbers at their regular hangouts in the city — Marine Drive, Worli sea face and Bandra Bandstand. To test the Hindutva outfits’ claims, midday reporters Shreya Bhandary and Laxman Singh, too, posed as a couple to find out what could happen if two consenting adults expressed their affection for each other at a few public places in the city. Here’s how the story unfolded:

Love is in the air
Starting 2:30 pm, we commenced our journey from a mall in Lower Parel where hordes of couples turned up, unscathed by anybody. We joined the crowds, only to be ignored like everybody else and, though we walked hand-in-hand inside the mall premises, nobody got hold of us or forced us to get married.

No sign of saffron
Our next stop was the picturesque Worli sea face, with the Bandra-Worli Sea Link as the backdrop. While the area was cordoned off for the Prime Minister’s visit, some couples still found their way toward the rocks, even as police constables shooed away vehicles parked on the main road. As we strolled at Worli sea face, none of the constables bothered us or any of the other couples around even as they clicked photographs. Once again, no saffron fanatics were in sight.

Two mid-day reporters posed as couple and travelled to a mall in Lower Parel, Worli, and Bandra Bandstand to test whether couples celebrating Valentine’s Day are targeted by Hindutva outfits. Pic/Shadab Khan

A cab ride across the Bandra-Worli Sea Link brought us to Bandra Bandstand, where some cops manned Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow, Mannat, as BMC workers demolished the illegal ramp the actor had constructed next to the bungalow. Couples posed for photographs beside it, while others ventured toward the rocky patches near the sea. We walked past couples busy exchanging gifts and sweet nothings. The ambiance was peaceful. We soon left because the saffron brigade was nowhere in sight.

Outside the RSS office
We finally headed to the head office of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at Lower Parel. While many at the gate eyed us for walking around their office with red roses, no one objected publicly.

Clearly, the threats made by Hindu Mahasabha this month in UP were all but empty. When asked about the absence of VHP volunteers on Valentine’s Day, Venkatesh Abdeo, Central Minister, VHP, was in denial. “The presence of our volunteers was enough to make couples flee from places they frequent to express their love in public. In two or three years, this concept will be wiped out,” said Abdeo.

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