Valentine’s Day: From then to now...
They say love is the most special of all emotions. And there’s absolutely no doubt about that. But love – of every kind – is special. Without that emotion, without that four-letter word, life would probably have come to a standstill many eons ago. On a day dedicated to celebrating that very emotion, on Valentine’s Day, people usually assume – blame popular culture for this – that one’s life is futile if he/she is not ‘blessed’ with a lover. Flush that perception down the gutter. Single people are alive – very much so – and perhaps with a much lighter heart than a relationship would allow one to boast of!
On to the territory of Singledom then. With films, greetings card manufacturers, soft toy companies and popular literature – in fact, every facet of life whatsoever – making life utterly un-live-able the week beginning from February 8 to February 14, one is left to wonder whether or not a Valentine is actually necessary to celebrate life. The answer, my friend, is a ‘No’. Big and bold. Celebrating love doesn’t really mean going to the end of the world for any random person whosoever, celebrating love is actually better when one dedicates the Day of Love to the person one loves the most – oneself. People in romantic relationships, who swear by their beloved, might issue a fatwa against this, but the truth remains the same nevertheless.
Back in school, when few famous couples – seniors, mostly – got their partners gifts of all shapes and sizes and materials on Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t really able to grasp the meaning of the entire hullabaloo. Gradually, the mind stepped into that glittering phase called teenage, and it was as if somebody had unlatched Pandora’s hot, sexy box. Growing up in the 90s had that sort of a mysterious charm attached to it. Beginning from the kind of movies our very own Hindi film industry churned out to the kind of books we smuggled back home to read, the romantic concept of ‘love’ was everywhere. All of a sudden, everything seemed to be painted in hues of red – various shades, ranging from the pink of infantile crushes to the dark red of anger at being jilted. And February – aah. During school whatever repressed emotions one might have had, once out of the contours of our homes and in the big cities of Kolkata, Bangalore, Delhi – we found ourselves drenched in the downpour of those.
The realm of boyfriends began being explored a lot more once I stepped out of home, into this big world called Delhi. But after a co-ed school all my life, a women’s college came across as a bit of a disappointment. However, that was soon washed off by the realisation that men literally died to get a snippet out of the hallowed portals of women’s colleges – and more so in Delhi. There were College Socials to be attended, invitations from distant relatives and friends to be fulfilled and in the midst of it all, that – that indescribable whatever called love – happened. Not once, but several times. So much so, that by the end of it, the neat and clean watertight compartments of crush, infatuation, affection, lust, love, all transformed themselves into an inextricable mess.
And then came The One. In retrospect, all of it appears utterly funny – and I’m being extremely kind by calling it that. He was perfect, he was brilliant in every aspect, he was him – and all of the little imaginations, the sweet nothings that I’d so carefully amalgamated right from school, found their destinies in this one relationship. Slowly, things got lovelier, the bond got stronger and Valentine’s Day brought forth a different world for me altogether. There were bouquets of red roses, chocolates, cards, gifts – basically every single thing that falls under the bracket of ‘February 14: Gifts for Him/Her’ that companies so diligently plaster their exteriors with, come February.
One fine day, actually over a period of time, things got sour and sourer, till neither could take it anymore. While I was determined to make it work, against all odds, he had moved on to someone else. Tears replaced smiles and the pillow cases began being changed at extraordinarily frequent intervals. Family, home, friends stuck by; consoling, pointing out reasons why the relationship could no longer work, wiping tears, going extra light years to see that smile on my face. But when your centre of existence falls apart, you need something much, much more potent to move on to. Inter-city movements, shifting base from Delhi to Kolkata and vice versa and more. Depression lost steam somewhere in between. Slowly, I began realising that not being in a relationship does not denote the end of the world. A bigger, much better world existed out of the silly, self-obsessed walls of that relationship. And love, ever since, has meant something else.
A few February 14s have passed by after that. And some of them have been extremely joyous, bordering on ridiculous, seeing couples declaring their love for each other – and doing it so much more on one day. After all, isn’t love all about consistency and things ethereal? Then why bind it within one single week! And thereafter, Valentine’s Day has been extremely good – with friends – with people who matter. The sorrow has long been replaced by a different, healthy sort of happiness. One that comes from work, or meaningful relationships or being loved unconditionally by many people, maybe. This Valentine’s Day, too, would be no different. I’d perhaps do what I’m best at – being myself!