Just for the record, I am not big on Valentine’s Day. Never have been.
When I moved to Delhi in my early 20s, you could not overlook February 14 and the shenanigans around it. The hearts in the mastheads of all the national dailies were an early morning reminder to this day-long festival of candies and cupids. The papers ran amok—they had articles on couples who sizzle, guides for the romantically challenged, a ‘did you know’ about the world’s most expensive V-Day card, etc., etc.. And I remember a colleague at work looking at me and saying, “You must be definitely going for a party tonight”. People assume too much. Little did she know I was still waiting for the God of Love to oblige me with that one-of-its-kind Valentine date.
However, I wholeheartedly supported and participated in this revelry, and rebelled against the vigilantes in Delhi protesting against V-Day as it was against ‘Indian culture’. You know, it is still the norm that right-wing fundamentalists continue moral policing in India. They believe this is a rotten culture imported from the West, where women are engaging in pre-marital sex, going to pubs and indulging in public display of affection such as kissing. In short, a vulgar representation of love. I have also seen television and social media images of women beaten up for celebrating Valentine’s Day even in small towns like Guwahati.
So there came a phase when I pretended not to care about it while hypocritically accepting cards and flowers from admirers. And every Valentine’s Day was SAD during the initial years — I mean it was my Single Awareness Day. Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration, I was not single for long.
Meanwhile, my roommate, a hopeless romantic, never failed to observe this special day. I was privy to all her preparations. There was this one time when she filled her room with balloons and candles and ordered food to spend a memorable evening with her beau. The things people do in the name of love! But as luck would have it, the beau was so caught up at work that by the time he arrived, the candles were burnt out, the food cold and roommate fuming. Hell hath no fury than a woman who has to wait on a date. When coming late blurs a good time, which is why I still remember this vividly even years later.
And then came a phase when I actively avoided going out on Valentine’s Day to unhypocritically avoid the commercial circus around it. In all frankness, Valentine’s Day has to be the corniest of celebrations. I mean packets of saccharine sweethearts, teddy bears clutching heart-shaped pillows, marsh mellow hearts, love hearts charm bracelets, lollypop earrings, et al. Do you really need all this kitschy commodification of romance and add clutter to your life?
Cut to the present, I really don’t care about V-Day unless I start getting forwards or special deals on my phone. I am alive to all kinds of arguments, but I haven’t softened to the kitsch of it all.
On a more serious and philosophical note, it is not shameful to express your love for that someone but there has to be more than one special day to do it. If anything, that makes you feel less cynical through the year. For those who put meals on the table every night with effort and care, that is a celebration of love. I like the idea of labouring romantically over a hot gas stove more than heading out to a restaurant. But that’s me and I believe it has its own charm.
Celebrating Valentine’s Day isn’t the ultimate litmus test of your relationship. I am not a relationship expert, but I can tell you this much— love is a beautiful feeling, desire can be honest but romance can be definitely corny. So, if the chocolates did not work, savour them yourself.
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