The sun setting on Valentine’s Day, over 200 young people trooped out of Parliament Street police station after turning the usually drab premises into a riot of colours, song and dancing for six hours.
The protest – cheekily called Shudhh Desi Romance – had been upstaged in the morning after police picked up people outside the Hindu Mahasabha’s office, a few kilometres away from where Delhi’s new government was taking shape.
The protesters had come together against Mahasabha’s diktat of marrying off couples seen together on V-Day – why not subvert the very idea of a wedding through satire, one of the anonymous organisers said, while dancing her heart out inside the premises.
The change in venue, however, did little to temper the ‘baaraati’s enthusiasm’. As slogans grew shriller outside the station’s premises, festivities took hold inside the giant white locked doors.
A trumpet substituted the shehnai, as people showered petals on the newly-wed. Some claimed the Mahasabha members had given them white roses while they were being bundled into buses.
“Where’s the sangeet,” shouted a ‘baraati’. Within seconds, a dozen students started grooving to songs – from evergreen Bollywood wedding songs to traditional traditional Assamese folk songs.
In between, water ran out and the wedding cheer was replaced with raucous cries of “Delhi Police, khana do (give us food).” But just as one group grew tired, another took its place – “No, no! I don’t dance,” said a policewoman shyly, temporarily shedding her uniformed sternness, as a student tried to pull her in.
Amused authorities looked on as the wedding party carried on, seemingly unaware that they under detention. A rather large “priest” – dressed in boots and an exquisite red dhoti – announced he would be officiating the weddings, in the middle of a giant human circle that spanned the premises.
Two women walked up to him, followed by three, and then two men – and they were all married, blessed with 'gharwapsi' notes (homecoming notes – to mock the controversial saffron conversion programme).
A Muslim man was mock-converted, and told his “shuddhikaran” (purification) process had begun, verses were read out by young poets and wedding guests broke into impromptu dance sequences, all to lusty cheers from the crowd.
By then, the afternoon sun had waned and the wedding guests had started grumbling about food – the “father of the bride” apologised – and confrontation with the police began.
Within an hour, the protesters -- tired but joyous -- marched out to celebratory slogans, but not before making a point about religious coercion and keeping the institution of love free from hooliganism. Satire had, as always, ended up serious.