INSKEEP: Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I'm the person who has to tell you that because this is the day when MORNING EDITION's Renee Montagne can hardly reach the microphone because of the pile of flowers and cards in the way -giant, giant pile. I'm not expecting any cards, but we did get a letter from our South Asia correspondent, Philip Reeves. It's about one woman's idea for a Valentine's Day gift that makes a point in pink.
PHILIP REEVES: India has a history of producing strong women. I'm sure you recall Indira Gandhi, who served four terms as prime minister. There's one you probably don't know. Her name is Nisha Susan, and she's just embarked on a war in which her chief weapon is a pair of pink lady's bloomers.
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. In India, this day is often marred by protests from hard-line, right-wing Hindu groups. They consider that the day celebrating romantic love is against Indian traditions. They also see Valentine's Day as a generally immoral commercial concept imported from the West. In past years, they've made bonfires out of Valentine's cards. They've roamed around parks harassing courting couples, sometimes smearing black paint on the couple's faces, signifying disgrace.
This year, some of them are threatening to force unmarried couples found together on Valentine's Day to wed. All this reflects a deep fault line in India between diehards, who see themselves defending India's true values, and others who enjoy being part of a more progressive, changing society and want to defend their constitutional rights. Elections are on the way soon, so the mood is getting nasty.
Several weeks ago, a bunch of Hindu extremists stormed into a pub in the South Indian city of Mangalore, and roughed up female clients who happened to be in there enjoying a quiet drink. There was a big outcry, especially from women's groups. The debate is still going on. The hard-liners call the women in the pub loose and say their behavior is un-Indian. Woman's activists and their supporters accuse the hardliners of being fascists, bullying moral police, Hinduism's equivalent of the Taliban.
This is where Nisha Susan and her pink bloomers come in. Not long ago, Nisha and some friends set up a Facebook group on the Internet. They called it the Consortium for Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women. They decided to ask women to send in their pink frilly underwear, chaddis as they're called here, to collection points around India. The idea is to present on Valentine's Day these garments to the leader of the zealots who attacked the pub, as a gesture of defiance. The campaign's a big success. More than 30,000 people signed up in just over a week. Some have sent entire boxes of pink bloomers of every shape and sizes.
The bullies from the pub say they'll return the compliment with gifts of pink saris, the traditional garb of Indian women. Once again, India has shown nonviolence sometimes works. And so does humor.
Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.
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INSKEEP: And here's one more item from that Consortium of Pub- Going, Loose and Forward Women. Their blog is calling on women the world over to go to their local pubs tomorrow, and hoist their glasses in a toast to Indian women. They're saying that ordering a juice instead of alcohol will work just fine if you like. It's the thought that counts tomorrow, which is Valentine's Day.
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