Swara Bhasker on 'India, My Valentine': This is for people who are turned off by harsh messaging

Updated: Feb 10, 2020, 07:32 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Organisers of 10-city event 'India, My Valentine', which will start in Delhi on Feb 14 and end in Mumbai on Feb 16, say they will reach out to those who may not turn up at protest, but will go to a cultural event

Swara Bhasker, one of the organisers
Swara Bhasker, one of the organisers

At a time when the country is polarised and lines have been drawn between the Left and Right with CAA-NRC-NPR at the epicentre, one could say there's been little bhaichaara and pyaar and more nafrat and aag. To counter this, love seems all set to be in the air next weekend, that is, the Valentine's Day weekend, when 10 cities across the country are expected to come together to celebrate their one true love — India.

The event is being organised by a group of citizens under the umbrella platform, India My Valentine. This includes people from the film fraternity Swara Bhasker, Vikas Katyal, Aditi Anand, activist Fahad Ahmad, Kabeer Palshikar and entrepreneur Richard Jacob, among others.

Activist Fahad Ahmad with actor-activist Swara Bhaska
Activist Fahad Ahmad with actor-activist Swara Bhaska

The celebratory and collaborative programme aims at celebrating the February 14 weekend with music and spoken word. So far, the event is to take place in ten cities including New Delhi, Kolkata, Indore, Jaipur, Kochi, and Hyderabad. The opening ceremony will be held in New Delhi on February 14 and the closing concert on February 16 will be held in Mumbai.

"The event will reaffirm our faith in our fraternity; in our unity; in our Constitution — as Indians — no matter what our political differences may be," reads the concept note. "We will help you curate the line-up of talent and artists and help coordinate the event in your city. Logistical and financial responsibility will belong to the local groups."

The poster for India, My Valentine
The poster for India, My Valentine

The note further read: "We gather to celebrate the India we know and love — the India of tolerance, the India of acceptance, the India that strove to be a better place for even her most oppressed children, the India that was a dream. We celebrate the India of Tagore and Gandhi, the India of Ashfaqullah, Bismil, Savitribai Phule, Fatima. The India of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar."

Facilitating hosts, artists The organisers will act as facilitators between potential venue sites and the artists themselves. Those interested in bringing the event to their city can contact them at Indiamyvalentine@gmail.com.

"It is a sort of callout," said Bhaskar, who is one of the organisers. "We realised that there are people who aren't into aggressive politics or harsh messaging. They might not come for a protest but they will come to attend an evening of cultural performances such as spoken word, poetry, and music. The name 'India, My Valentine' represents the fact that no matter how many differences the electorate might have over political views, we love India."

India, My Valentine will also act as a liaison between artists and the venue. The city-based venues will have the freedom to choose the content for the event. For instance, whether or not to mention the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the National Population Register (NPR) will be up to the individual venues.

"On the other hand, some venues are hardcore protest sites themselves. So it is open to interpretation," Bhaskar said.

The organisers have also received requests from smaller towns of Uttar Pradesh. "We are concerned about the artists' safety. We won't compromise on security," Bhaskar said.

"Most of the current protests are taking place in echo chambers. The Right wing has successfully polarised them. Whether we have been able to reach across this echo chamber is unclear," she added.

"It is heartening to see the response. People from all across the country have offered their spaces to host the event or participate as performers. It goes to show how deeply the events of the past months have captured the imagination of the youth," she said.

Ahmad, on the other hand, said, "The idea is to celebrate an India that gives equal rights to everyone without any discrimination. We will restore that India for which our freedom fighters fought. India is my first love because it gives us everything today that we have in our life."

Participating artistes

Vishal Dadlani (music/vocals), Rekha Bhardwaj (music/vocals), Swanand Kirkire (poetry/vocals), Aditi Mittal (stand-up), Kaneez Surka (stand-up), Sanjay Rajoura (stand-up), Ankur Tewari (music/vocals), Saba Azad (music/vocals), Madara (rap), Aamir Aziz (spoken word), Sabika Naqvi (spoken word), Himanshu Bajpai (dastangoi — Urdu storytelling),
Dolly Singh (YouTube sketches)

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