Saturday, February 14, 2009


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 D-day to dawn. Bakeries bake hot cakes, mostly shaped like a human heart and balloon sellers sell heart-shaped balloons by the dozen. Malls throw open their heart plastered doors and the ubiquitous metro is crammed full with mushy-eyed, love birds. Love is literally littered everywhere.

2/14 is practiced with much markedness. Everyone is out.
The brouhaha is maddening. Cupid hangs from roof eaves and cafés. It was almost carnival like in the new-age malls where everything possible is made out like a heart – streamers, coffee froth, shoe laces, belts. Completely lost- in-love, made-in-heaven couples stroll about, surveying the merchandise. Queues for movie halls [where popcorn boxes are heart-like] get more serpentine than ever.

I am at loss to fathom this spectacle. Why should we go out 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? What is so special about this day that we must mandatorily wolf down 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. Erich Segal, author of Love Story [New York Times top selling work of fiction for all of 1970, the book was translated into more than 20 languages worldwide] writes about love thus: Love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.

Love is -- in reality -- inexplicable. 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? Part of the problem is that we are taken in by advertisers. As a society we have flunked to balance it. In doing so, we are completely overwhelmed by market forces who give us only two options -- either splurge or feel wanting.

No wonder the idiot box is relentless and the newspaper columns persistent. FM jockeys are hollering love before and after every song they play for you. If you don’t go out and participate in the make-believe pageant, you are doomed! In times of consumerism, the wholesale import of culture does not come as a shock to me. Commodifying emotions do.

I reckon love is more than just ribbons, bouquets and the heart 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!

The great French dramatist Jean Anouilh waxes eloquent,” Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself’.

Happy V-day.