Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Valentine Monologues

Aa gaya Aa gaya, Valentine's day aa gaya,
Aa gaya Aa gaya, something something aa gaya

(arbit song from the 80's, the rest of which I can't remember)

My weekly call home took place earlier than usual, during which, when discussing Mangalore, my Dad brought up an interesting point. A point that can be summarized as:

"Indha Valentine day-allaan yedhukku? Namba tyethla idhallan yilliyae"

His tone added to the question, conveying the bemusement that older generations feel with this muhurtam for cho-chweet lovey-dovey shit. This in turn leads me to muse a good deal and post my thoughts on V-day.

At least in the Indian context, Valentine's day is not older than a decade, twelve at best. It began to make its presence felt about 6-7 years following the opening of the free market, which, when you think about it, is the time Hallmark took to build up a presence in India and Archie's to penetrate the market beyond Delhi and Bombay. About '97 is when we began to hear of this, of couples going to dances for V-day, of cafes and whatnot holding couple specials and of course of all the stuff you could buy for your significant other at "gift stores". Because as we all know, nothing says pure romantic love like a 70 Rupees card and a 200 Rupees pack of chocolate. Woh tab tha jab Chocolate hi gift ke liye de sakte the. Ab dete hain iPod, cell phone, deluxe Bouquet, dinner at Fleury's, Night-out at Fever etc. etc. and of course Archies or Hallmark gifts. V-day is essentially a fallout of the Great Opening Up of the Indian economy, with every goddamn retailer and restaurateur hoping to con someone into spending cash, and every dude in the media brainwashing people into considering this acceptable and even essential to love, chweet, icky lowwwwwwwve.


Now, I had a middle-class upbringing. I had wayyy less cash or time to spend on these days than a lot of my schoolmates, who bought into this a good deal more. We nevertheless were a sort of starter generation, in the we-can-take-it-or-leave-it stage. It is worrisome, to me and I guess to the older generations of today, that so many youngsters are hooked into what is essentially a spending addiction, for no reason than that CCD and Fever have special couples' discounts and VJs Mini, Malaika, Shenaaz, Piya, Nikki and so forth (notice any Sharanyas, Priyas or even Poojas there) strut their stuff on TV and tell you to go do spend. Is this romantic? Not by a long shot? Is it worth the attention it gets? Not by an even longer shot. Does it polarize society even further, separating salwar-kameez-thayir saadam with ooruga tiffin wallahs from jeans-miniskirt-CCD-types? Absolutely. So I do sympathize with the Pink Condom campaign, who abhor violence and hope for Ram Sene-types to be locked up, but dislike V-day as a whole. Because when you get down to it, this is peer pressure akin to "take a drag yaar". There is no one muhurtam to lowwwve someone and then forget about said person for the other 364 days.

With that being said, I have to say celebration of V-day makes some sense for neophytes at dil-vil-pyaar-vyaar. When you're a boy (not a man) and you like a girl (not a woman, not a wife) and the two of you hit it off to the point of awkward, sitcom-style dating, it ought to mark an achievement of sorts for you to make it to one of these, like surviving a tournament to a quarter final. So for those who can derive some sort of enjoyment out of this, I say go knock yourself out before the realization sets in that you've been manipulated by the Man and his Machine. And as before, freedom, even to engage in activities as silly as this, is essential. Let Ram/Shiv Senas take this away today and you don't know what they'll find offensive tomorrow.

But for myself though, single, frustrated and quite devoid of the syrupy chweet lowwvey sentiment this day's supposed to drown you in, I just say "Valentine's day? Bah! Humbug!!"

1 comment:

Googoo Baby said...

You must go check out the discount chocolates and flowers tomorrow!!

I liked your must examine the whole polarize society idea further. It's so easy to forget that there are so many varied realities for people at all socio-economic levles....I would like to read your take on that :)