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Seeing red: My black Valentine

February 14, 2010

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There are two events a year that attract some of the largest crowds to public places such as restaurants, malls, parks, etc. One of them happens to be New Year's Eve and the other, Valentine's Day. Although red happens to be a favourite colour, on this particular day, I detest it. You see it everywhere in the flowers people give, their choice of gift-wrapping, the décor of various public places and even in the predominant wardrobe of the awam.

There are certain symptoms that tell you the dreaded day is near. Flower shops jack up their prices of roses from Rs 15 per rose to Rs 500 depending on how close to V-Day you're buying them — even if your objective for buying flowers has nothing to do with Valentine's Day.

Most public places will suddenly see a makeover in their interior with cut-out hearts, cupids and confetti adorning their walls, single candles on the tables and the only seating that is available is for couples — not a person less and not a person more. Gift shops see a spurt in business as every Tom, Dick and Harry imaginable goes out and buys — often clichéd — presents for their sweetheart. The most common of those presents include perfumes/colognes, picture frames, promise rings, cuddly teddy bears, chocolates, etc. All of the stereotypes you see on TV and in gift cards are followed to the tee. Talk about being original.

What I find amusingly surprising (if it's possible to experience such an emotion) is that you have entire families — ma, baap, behan, bhai and bachey included — heading out to celebrate a day which commemorates romantic lovers. I distinctly remember escaping from a popular mall in the city when right outside the entrance, I saw a large, moustached man step out of his car, donned in a red shirt (and brown pants!). His wife was wearing a red shalwar kameez and both their children had also donned red ensembles... celebrating romance took on a whole new meaning for this family and I often wonder whether they even understood what they were out celebrating.

What I don't understand is why do you need one day out of the entire year in which to celebrate your love for your sweetheart? What if, on that particular day, you're not in a particularly 'lovey-dovey/mushy' mood? Do you go out and force yourself to feel 'the love' along with a hundred other individuals in a restaurant? With an emotion as private as love, why would anyone want to go out and celebrate it on a day as commercial as Valentine's Day?

The media hype around it — on TV, radio, the internet, etc. — to convince individuals that Valentine's Day is the perfect day to show your love (or else what? “Bad things” will happen to you?), is built up predominantly with the purpose of generating revenue. TV/Radio channels profit from their 'special' V-Day programming, restaurants from the sheer number of bookings they get, apparel shops/salons from the high number of customers wanting to look their finest and gift shops from... well, selling what they stock. It's an event where people spend, spend, and spend more money in the (noble) name of love. I assume that in the world of the Valentine's Day celebrators, these products are blessed with Cupid's magic love-dust that will ensure that they — in the manner of fairy tales — will live 'happily ever after'. Yeah, right.

As nauseating as I might find Valentine's Day, there are those who revel in its sheer cheesiness. A well-known fashion designer friend once confessed to indulging in every possible cliché that Valentine's Day represents he goes out and books a bouquet of red roses well in advance, invests in the finest chocolate, creates greeting cards, buys perfume for his sweetheart and makes a booking at a chic restaurant in expectation of spending a (romantic) classic Valentine's Day.

He gladly takes the pain of doing all of this every year except this one. Because this year, after a very, very long time, he happens to be single on Valentine's Day. And his misery knows no bounds. He's been dreading this day for over three months and is even willing to go to the extent of celebrating it by coercing a friend (aka me) to have a V-Day dinner with him. The only way I am going out on Valentine's Day (kicking and screaming, I must add) is if I'm allowed to carry a black flag in protest. I might incur the wrath of all of the world's lovers united, but I'll risk it.