Friday, February 15, 2008

Love ~ in the times of metro and malls

Like every year 2/14 has been special. Natives call it Valentine’s day. Love day. Every teenager -- and most adults cued-in to the big media – wait anxiously for the special day to dawn. Bakeries bake hot cakes, mostly shaped like a human heart and balloon sellers do brisk business. Malls throw open their electronic doors and the ubiquitous metro is crammed full with mushy-eyed, love birds. Love is literally littered everywhere.

Like every year, 2/14 event this year was practiced with much markedness. Everyone was out. Cupid hung from roof eaves and café’ joints. Upon staircases and newly-painted park benches [damn the paint]. It was almost carnival like in the new-age malls where everything possible was made out like a heart – streamers, coffee froth, shoe laces, belts -- while people en masse held hands. Completely lost- in-love, made-in-heaven couples strolled about. Queues for movie halls [where cornflake boxes are heart-like] this year got more serpentine than ever.

I am at loss to fathom – or explain -- this sentient spectacle. Why should we go out in the open and walk with hips joined like Siamese twins on this particular day? Why must we sit in the gardens – which are so filled with humanity on 2/14 – and flirt with each other's locks for everyone to ogle? What is so special about this day that we must mandatory wolf heart-shaped pancakes [ridiculously priced]? Why should we practise our emotions like a mass ritual?

Love is such an uncommon sentiment. We love people for what they are. The feelings are oft reciprocal. Erich Segal, author of Love Story [New York Times top selling work of fiction for all of 1970 in the United States, the book was translated into more than 20 languages worldwide. Motion picture of the same name was the number one box office attraction] writes about love thus: Love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.

Love is for most of the times an inexplicable phenomenon. It is romance, it is fun and it is madness – yeah. But do we need one day in an entire calendar year to express it? Isn’t love eternal? Do cakes and cut flowers and candies and coffee constitute love? The curt answer is ‘No’. The problem with us is that we are madly aping the west. As a society we have failed to balance the cultural onslaught. In doing so, we have been completely overwhelmed by market forces who give us only two options -- either go out and splurge or feel wanting.

No wonder the idiot box is relentless and the newspaper columns persistent. If you don’t go out and participate in the emotional-make believe pageant, you are doomed! In times of globalization and consumerism, the wholesale import of culture/fests do not come as a shock to me. Commodifying emotions do.

I reckon love is more than just ribbons, bouquets and the love panoply on sale. We have come to such a pass where we need to shell out quick bucks [and that is the real reason for this show-boat] to express our love. Love has -- alas -- been reduced to packages and gifts! The great French dramatist Jean Anouilh waxes eloquent,” Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself’.

Happy V-day.