The word Valentine’s Day has never enjoyed as much reverence and notoriety as it does today. While for many it is an innocent and compulsory occasion to showcase their innermost feelings and hidden love, for many more it is the day when they can make more money than what they can by selling cards, gift items and teddy bears the year over. For some it is the day to show their allegiances to certain political parties and their ideologies and a perfect opportunity to vent out their anger for not having a girl/woman in their lives and make those who have suffer for having something that they don’t have.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on February 14. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Over the years, the day metamorphosed into a cultural revolution of sorts that not only captured the imagination of the young generation but also found voices among those who didn’t even know of its existence a few years earlier.
Valentine’s Day made its foray into India in the late 80s and early 90s. Over the years, it has become so big that even the mighty Bollywood has taken notice of its power over the youth of the country. We see Bollywood film-makers plan and release their romantic films on this day or in the extended Valentine’s week. Fitoor, Sanam Re, Sanam Teri Kasam, Gully Boy are just some of the films that released over the years on the Valentine’s Week and tried to cash in on the Valentine’s Day vibe. The day is of so much importance that there are even instances of Bollywood producers envisioning films and planning their climax to be such that it coincides with the celebration of and spirit of Valentine’s Day.
It was only a matter of time before the sales and marketing teams of companies that provided supplies for the day took notice and before we knew, a celebration that was supposed to be of one day became a weeklong affair and indulgence in buying stuff that no one needed for the rest of the year was marketed as the new normal. With each day of the week catering to a specific product that could be mapped to the requirement of that specific day in the Valentine calendar, it became apparent that one would have to shell out twice or thrice of what one usually paid for these stuff on any other day. I couldn’t help but look closer on these days and what I found was not only interesting but also thought provoking.
- February 7, Rose Day
On this day, the boys have primarily three colors to choose from. White, if you are making her acquaintance on the day. Yellow, if you are professing your undying friendship for her and red if you are professing your love for her. One must note that while there are many boys who would only go for the red rose on the day as they are already through the other two stages, there may be many who might have to take the long route.
- February 8, Propose Day
You cannot propose to a girl without holding anything in your hand. That something could be a rose, a bouquet, a box of chocolates etc. Hence, while you are going limp on your legs trying to muster up your courage to express your true love, you still have be aware of the minimum financial investment that you are entitled to make lest your present yourself as a miser.
- February 9, Chocolate Day
This is the day when Guwahati sees an insane upsurge in the sale of chocolates. It is not just the Cadbury that gets picked up and in many cases it might not be enough to make the cut. Over the years foreign brands like Ferrero Rocher have become the minimum requirements to prove to your girl that you will touch the sky for her.
- February 10, Teddy Day
Girls love Teddy Bears. Girls love to hug their teddies and sleep. Every boy tries to gift his girl a teddy that will remind her of him when she is cuddling it. It proves to be an difficult task to find your equivalent in a fluffy and perpetually pink toy owing to how Indian boys are genetically designed. We still try.
- February 11, Promise Day
If you thought politicians were dodgy, wait till you see and hear Indian boys make promises on Promise Day. A guy who doesn’t have the resources to pay off his debts to the local “Halwai” will not think twice before promising a girl the whole world. And while he is at it, he might just contribute to the upsurge in the sale of decorative papers where he might decide to pen the promises and hand it over to the girl as if it was his last will and testament.
- February 12, Hug Day
The companies were shrewd enough to keep their product placements days ahead of these next two days when a girl has the luxury of moving back on the guy even though she might have accepted the other pleasantries from the previous days. Thus the guy may lose the girl but the companies will not lose their bucks.
- February 13, Kiss Day
If you are lucky enough to arrive at this day with your girl still with you on the same page, get ready to buy some mouth fresheners. If you are a smoker, chances are you will need a visit to the dentist to turn your teeth pristine and wiping off all the blemishes that came from your bad habits. If you are a guthka-guy then be ready to spend double the amount for only you are to blame for the condition of your teeth.
- February 14, Valentine’s Day
By the time you will arrive on the actual Valentine’s day, either you will be too dazed from the other days to be pumped enough to give it your best or would have been sidelined for the day to mean nothing more than a reminder of the chance you squandered for whatever reason. The extended Valentine’s week has started infusing in the youth a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is purely a creation of the companies that shoved ideas and expectations down the throats and minds of the new generation that strictly speaking has little to do with the true essence and expression of love and Valentine’s Day.
There is still Hope!
Having said all that, there is still hope. I find it extremely cute to see kids do little things that require a lot of effort on their part to impress each other. Interestingly, it is in the case of these kids that both Boys and Girls are seen to put in equal efforts in making the other feel special. That in many ways contributes to taking Valentine’s Day to its actual roots. There are many who sight the day as one where you can show your love and gratitude towards anyone who you love or care for and that is not wrong in the truest sense of the term. However, the day has, over the years become synonymous with couples and them expressing their love for each other and that notion has overshadowed any other interpretation of the day.
“Ek Tarfa Pyar” – The best excuse to be single
Melodies have a special place in Valentine’s Day. While Bollywood is known for churning out some of the most romantic songs that have the power to uplift the most basic of romantic emotions, it has over the years understood the fact that not all guys or girls have partners. They have now changed their strategy and have introduced something that is referred to as Ek-tarfa-pyar or one-sided love and is an epitome of inclusivity in a cardinally couple centric Valentine’s Day. “Ae Dil hai Mushkil”, where we saw Ranbir Kapoor being friend-zoned for over 2 hours was a torch bearer of this notion. It is just a way of making the singles feel good and revel in the fact that they are best things to have happened to man-kind. What this does is give you a chance to think that you are in a one-sided hypothetical relationship with someone and makes you feel fulfilled about it. The way it is done is by conceptualizing characters of similar tones or simply by having Salman Khan sing…”Swag se Solo”. Sadly, I can’t revel in this wishful thinking and I have seen too many Zakir Khan Videos to believe in “Swag Se Solo”. On the contrary, I am “Haq se Single”
Valentine’s Day in Assam and Bengal
For Assam and Bengal, Valentine’s Day has another, more ethnic rendering. On the day of Saraswati Puja, Bengal and Assam celebrate their very own Valentine’s Day. While this is a notion that has no documentation to support its existence, all one has to do to learn of its existence is to ask the young folks about the existence of a local Valentine’s Day and the first word that will come out of their mouth would most definitely be “Saraswati Puja”. While this day doesn’t see couples professing their love for each other, Saraswati Puja generally witnesses couples dressed in their ethnic best, go around schools and colleges, connecting with friends and pandal hopping. It is also rumored that girls, who are not moving around in groups generally move about the city only with their beus. I particularly like this day as it adds a dash of Indianess to the whole idea of Valentine’s Day. It also helps that the couples are dressed in some of the catchiest and splendid ethnic attire that instantly elevates the feel of the day. Add to that the merry making and the added bonus of the Saraswati Puja and the day becomes even more special.
Summing it all up…
To sum it all up, Valentine’s Day has in many ways become a part of our culture and it has metamorphosed into a celebration that is nearly as big as the New Year celebration or the Christmas. While it has its share of downs, one cannot ignore the inherent sweetness and innocence that it brings with it when it is celebrated by true romantics. When all you want to do is woo the girl/boy who you think is the love of your life, the celebration is elevated to a whole new level that is sweet, pristine, fluffy and has an unmissable charm that stick like a Celine Dion melody.
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