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Valentine's Day

By Garima Singh

Today morning as I turned on my desktop, I got pleasantly surprised, just like every year and year after year ever since somebody in high school enlightened me about the Valentine’s Day. Growing up in a country like India where almost all festivals are heavily commercialized and misunderstood in those terms, it took me a while understanding the real meaning of the holiday. What we knew then was that the guys were supposed to show their romantic love interest to the girls by giving them roses and chocolates, and of course, stuffed teddy bears were a plus. From there onwards, every year was an insane trip of the commercialization of the whole thing in myriads of ways. I am not even embellishing anything here.

On holidays our markets are full of flood lights and are open even longer than the regular hours with no parking places and not an elbow’s space to move in humongous Malls. People flood outside of their homes looking for parties, eating out, watching movies and having fun. They do not gather at home cooking dinner with and/or for their family and friends. The local street vendors appear out of nowhere on Christmas day with weird Santa Claus masks on. Everyone is seen selling and buying something, in the name of the holiday. Those who are not would be seen fighting about it.

A couple of years back there was a good road show put by Shiv Sena (a group of self-proclaimed patriots better known as fascists) against the young girls and guys who were celebrating the day to which the youngsters responded pretty well only last year by distributing pink panties to the patrons of Indian cultural heritage who were against westernizing “love” in India. So, the whole day is not just commercialized, now even politicized there. Though love in the times of Valentine’s Day can be the toughest love in the history of mankind anywhere in the world. There is a fair chance of someone calling it off with their current mate just because they would not do the usual stuff, the ritual on the day, so as to speak. Would not say that I ever did that but I know a few girls who did. Thinking in retrospect, however, all my beaus were gone just less than a year after dating, and there was one thing in common, they all vanished before the Valentine’s Day approached. Some even on 12th or 13th of February. So could it be a reason, the day? Who knows?

Anyway, so today morning, I saw on a site’s home page an image of a little boy and girl sitting with their backs facing us, holding hands cuddled in sweet embrace. Watching the pink candies all over the grocery stores and the bunches of roses with sky rocketing prices as the day approaches, the heart shaped cookies and goodies…creating a wonderful microcosm of a virtual reality named “love” or “love is in the air”, I have always wondered, if love actually was in thin air and hence we needed more ways to show that appreciation on just one day. As a single person who has been ditched by guys just before the day, I couldn’t but hate the whole atmosphere that these little pink candles create. You can find pink and heart shaped things everywhere and believe me they are scarier than the Halloween masks. As they say in alien movies “They are everywhere” and no matter what you do, if you are out on the day or during the week “They will find you or you are going to face them”.

As my reconciliation with my singlehood and lack of appreciation on the most popular day of showing affection, I had often presented my first love, my mom, gifts and roses or my best single and lonely girl friends heart shaped candies in past. But this year was different as all my single friends were married and I was bored of group gatherings or wishing my parents a happy Valentine’s Day or working late hours just to compensate. I had crossed the age when one craves for that kind of a bitter-sweet romantic love where expression is an important aspect. I did not want roses, chocolates or gifts for sure but I did want love in my life. Could I ever get rid of that desire?

Even when I am growing old single and even when life seems to preoccupy me all the time with its beautiful manifestations and activities, there always remains a warm nook in the heart that awaits love- a love as ideal as one of those fairy tales or great love stories. There is longing and there is hope. Recently I also discovered that only divine love can be that perfect but we all are divine, then why can’t it be possible amongst us. We are oblivious to ourselves and incapable of loving, hence we label sentiments with things. A great sentiment that Saint Valentine wanted to convey gradually is really misinterpreted and grossed into shallow show off more than anything else.

I might not want mushy romantic love or the conventional gifts as I really don’t care but I don’t want every website to haunt me either by putting some pink or romantic images or sponsoring for flower advertisements for the day. Come on! Can we please at least spare the search engines or hospital offices? No! The plain answer is “No” because no matter how much you want the monkey off your back, “They are always there and they are watching us!” Shouldn’t you have guessed by now that otherwise I wouldn’t be writing a blog on the whole thing.

Garima is originally from Delhi and is doing research in US. Writing is her passion and hobby. A bit of a social activist, scientist, writer and a documentary film maker-in-making.

Love is in the Air

By Purba

Love is buzzing in the air. Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has declared to the world and whoever is willing to listen “It’s no secret, Kiran (Desai) is my girlfriend” The lovebirds will soon be heading off to Goa. It should do them a world of good. Apparently sunbathing jazzes up a man’s sex drive with good ole Vitamin D coming to rescue. According to scientific studies it perks up the testosterone. I love scientific studies. You are forever caught in a quagmire of indecisions. One day eggs are harmful, the next they are supposed to be good for heart. Do I need to drink eight glasses of water? Is it okay to go nuts over nuts? Dusting increases chances of fertility! Ever since I read that I gave up stress for good. All I need to do is take off my glasses and the house looks much cleaner.

Jacob Zuma, South African president is busy propagating love. A practicing polygamist, he has sired his 20th child. Now that’s taking sowing your wild oats to the extreme. But I am a bit tensed up. Not because Zuma at 67 can still do it. I have a list to make of people I have to say “I love you” to. And I barely have a week. You see, the entire year I will be too busy working, living, entertaining myself and others and I will get just one measly Valentine’s Day to profess my love.

My forehead is furrowed in concentration. The list is not very long, but tricky. If I leave out someone who really matters, I will be met with iciest of glares for the rest of the year.

My Mom….of course I love her, I am conditioned to, but can you please stop telling me what’s wrong with my life and finally accept me as a grown up?

The Husband... we have a life-long contract of loving each other. But it would help if you can say I Love you with that beautiful armband from Amrapali. I have been eyeing it for the longest.

My brother… I love you, but I love your cuddly daughter and her most endearing smile more.

Why is it so easy to fall hopelessly in love with babies? Is it because they do not express their opinions (read criticism)? Demand only love and love you unconditionally!

My Daughter... Honey Mama loves you, but can you please be more responsible and study!! (Ha! so much for unconditional love)

My friends…With you I can be myself. Not a mother, a wife, a daughter, just a girl who needs mindless banter to de-stress. And you make the greatest partners in crime (read shopping)

Why is it so difficult to love and so easy to loathe? Ask me about my hate list and I can rattle off names in a jiffy. But when it comes to loving we have the longest checklist list to fulfill. It’s like a hurdle race, the faster you run, the higher you jump, the closer you can come to me. Is he bestowed with a sense of humor? Is Fountainhead her favorite piece of literature? Is she compassionate? Does he love dogs? Of course if the guy looks like Bradley Cooper, the checklist and hurdles can go to hell.

But a stray uncomfortable incident and we are ready to block the unfortunate person out for the rest of our lives.

Thank god Valentine’s Day was not half as popular when I was in school. Was it because Archies had yet to make its presence felt and Hallmark had not made its mark in the Indian market? Imagine how stressful it could have been! As if exams were not enough, you were now doomed to wait for V day with trepidation. Will I get any cards this year? I have been giving Vinay the glad eye for the longest, will he take the bait? Saisha got 17 cards last year and I managed just 3 (all bought by me). Why me? Why not me?

The florist though is the happiest. He goes laughing all the way to the bank. People shell out forty bucks for a measly rose without a murmur of protest. Your senses are assaulted with an overdose of red. The city suddenly gets infested with gloriously-in-love couples looking deep into each other’s eyes, girls giving off key musical renditions of their love at the local karaoke station, men scurrying off to the jeweler to make an expensive declaration of their love.

So is one day enough to express an emotion so deep that it has the ability to transform; is your biggest weakness and strength? Isn’t any day good enough to feel mushy and gooey? Why do we wait for B-days and V-days to make our special one feel cherished? My take is that occasions such as these jolt us out of the daily rut of our lives.

Many of you would argue that Valentine’s Day is but a shameless marketing ploy. Maybe it is but I don’t care. This Valentine’s I am going to be dressed in my red pair of jeans (fashion police stay away), pop in heart shaped chocolates ,flutter my mascara’d lashes and croon “Oh my love, my darling, I’m hungry for your love” to my one and only. You have a problem with that?

Purba is a teacher in a school in Delhi and is taking a sabbatical right now. She enjoys writing and enjoying the little pleasures of life.

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