A young woman tries to make up her mind about which bouquet to buy from the varieties on offer; (right) and plenty of balloons but very few customers. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A young woman tries to make up her mind about which bouquet to buy from the varieties on offer; (right) and plenty of balloons but very few customers. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: “Valentine’s Day is overrated!” A young woman accompanied by a young man told Dawn at one of the florists’ stalls at Gizri when asked if she was buying a bouquet for St. Valentine’s Day.

“We only stopped by to get some flowers for an ailing relative,” she added before paying for a bunch of tube roses and leaving.

“We have prepared plenty of bouquets using red English roses as well locally grown desi ones to suit all pockets, but we have to admit that the demand for red rose bouquets is not the same as it used to be earlier,” said Manzoor, one of the florists there.

Meanwhile, Faisal, who’s working away feverishly to remove thorns from long stems and binding flowers into pretty bouquets while selecting them from the bunches of roses heaped inside an old deep freezer behind a tree, said that he had heard things about the importance of Feb 14 and Valentine’s Day and also things that denounce it.

“But quite frankly, it makes no difference to us as long as we make good sales, whatever the reason people are buying the flowers from us,” he said.

Florists, balloon sellers, bakeries have faced severe impact of rising inflation this year

He pointed to the different bouquets he had made since morning on Tuesday. There was a huge tall one, around three feet in height, comprising 16 dozen desi red roses, which was on sale for Rs5,000. Another made of six-dozen English roses also cost Rs5,000. And yet another with just four big black roses, which are not really black, but maroon, were there on display and for sale for Rs2,000 only.

Some of the florists were also selling bright red heart-shaped foil balloons along with the bouquets, which turned out to be a waste of energy as few people were getting flowers for Valentine’s Day.

“I think people find those red LPG gas cylinders more romantic than red roses,” laughed one florist while pointing to an LPG cylinders’ shop right across from him. “I am seeing more customers there than at my shop,” he added.

But young Nausheen, actually there to select a nice bouquet for Valentine’s Day, was the ideal customer for the florists they had been waiting for since morning. “I have a nice evening planned with my husband Nasar,” she told Dawn. “So I am here to buy some flowers. Then I am heading to a bakery to get a strawberry cheesecake, too,” she smiled.

The city’s bakeries all had a few red velvet cakes, chocolate and cheesecakes ready. One bakery owner in DHA Phase-2 commercial area said that plenty of young “student-types” come looking for cakes with hearts on them. “We only made a few cakes, especially for the occasion and just two are left now. If they sell too, we might bake a few more,” he smiled.

Meanwhile, the well-known big bakeries of the city, though they did have special cakes and cookies, said that sales were not very good.

But the most dismal situation could be observed near the KPT underpass at Clifton, famous for shiny foil gas balloons. There were bunches after bunches of red, pink and silver heart-shaped balloons, but hardly any customers. Where people used to be cursing traffic jams on Valentine’s Day, the traffic was freely flowing.

Ashraf, a dejected balloon seller, said that they had been discouraged from selling balloons on footpaths by men from the Cantonment Board off and on, but today they just prevented them from doing any business. “Today they just shooed us away. They just didn’t allow us to even stand here. That’s why we couldn’t sell during the day. Now we are here after office hours. Let’s see if we can sell some balloons,” he said.

“The men are very rough. They push us, hit us. Today, they even turned over a fruit vendor’s cart, which was laden with strawberries that look like little hearts,” said Abdul Shakoor, another balloon seller.

“Our hearts are broken this Valentine’s Day because we just can’t sell,” said Mohammed Ali, a young boy selling single roses wrapped in silver foil outside a shopping centre. “I only sold just one rose today half an hour ago. In these times of inflation, people are thinking more about saving some money than spending on a single rose or a single balloon, both of which only cost Rs100 mind you,” he said sadly.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2023

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