Celebrating Romance in India? Bring Your Wallet

An Indian girl selects gifts at a gift shop in Siliguri, India.
Diptendu Dutta | AFP | Getty Images
An Indian girl selects gifts at a gift shop in Siliguri, India.

Couples in India may be getting a break from Hindu extremists on this Valentine’s Day, but they will find pursuing love is more expensive this year.

Restaurants in Indian cities have increased their prices for a special Valentine’s Day menu. Gift stores prominently display cloying teddy bears and expensive heart-shaped chocolates.

And then there are red roses. Demand in the run-up to Valentine’s Day rose by 25 percent above normal sales figures, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, also known as Assocham.

Roses are a flourishing industry in India, particularly around Valentine’s Day. Rising demand for roses was likely to quadruple its price from its average of 30-40 U.S. cents per stem, the trade group said.

While cynics would rather avoid the sentimental “day of love,” the Valentine’s Day has drawn the wrath of Hindu extremists in the past, who see the day as a corrupting influence on Indian culture and the nation’s youth. Three years ago men from the right-wing organization Shiv Sena used Valentine’s Day as an occasion to attack couples and cut their hair at a park in the state of Maharashtra on Valentine’s Day.

This year, however, the group says it will go easy on lovestruck couples.

“Since last year we are not going in for any kind of demonstration. What is the use or point? We cannot stop them from celebrating, and we are getting a bad reputation,” Om Dutt Sharma, Shiv Sena’s Delhi convenor, told NDTV.

Kaveer Ray, a 27-year-old public relations executive in Mumbai, believes Valentine’s Day is a marketing ploy. “Everything is overpriced. It makes me more creative about gift ideas.” Ray said he plans to cook a special meal for his girlfriend.