Monday, February 14, 2011

On Valentine's Day

Contrary to the expectations of the young lovers, the sun on Valentine's Day did not resemble a giant heart dancing high up in the sky, and neither did the nightingale sing Justin Bieber's Baby. Valentine's Day has so far proved to be just like another day, at least for me. My interest in Valentine's Day  took a nasty turn when a few months back I was studying a book on the history of English literature that in its account of Geoffrey Chaucer's work had a gist of his famous dream-poem Parliament of Fowls. In it Chaucer is transported in his dream to a Garden of Love that contained a dark Temple of Venus. In the garden the goddess Nature presided over the Parliament of Birds: it is on Valentine's Day when fowls and birds chose their mates. Now, a romantic as I am under normal conditions, even I failed to derive even as much as an iota of romanticism from this lovey-dovey account of birds calling for their mates without the thought ringing inside my head to check to if I have a rainbow tail to go with my romantic nature, or wonder how well I can sing a cuckoo song of love. Such ghastly notions spoiled my love side, and for several days I felt misembodied.   I blamed the blasted Chaucer, Father of Poetry though he undoubtedly is, for killing my poetic side. Two eagles vying for the hand of a formel, let's face it, is not romantic.

Every year around this time as the smell of spring cloaks the air, people start talking about Valentine's Day. They take sides shouting for or against the customization of love around this very day. Some feel that this day is a hoax created by rich companies with the express intention of ripping us, while others feel that it is good to have a day dedicated to love. And in the middle of it all rests another largely forgotten group, the clan of latitudinarians who is a passive audience to the spectacular display of emotions presented by the V-day lovers and the non V-day lovers. The procession of arguments for or against the love issue doesn’t bother them very much; some things are not worth caring about. I think that I belong to this third group of people who love to see the butchering of lovers initiated by supermarkets, but would keep their hands clean by not being a sacrificial goat themselves and spend their cash on tchotchkes like a dollar box of China made chocolates or a forty dollar bouquet of flowers. But even if you want to stay away from the Valentine's Day brouhaha, you just cannot ignore it: this morning I was reminded by Godiva that today is Valentine's Day, and I ought to celebrate it with a box of their premium chocolates; by Pantene that wished me a happy V-day and added, like a good salesperson, that the new Pantene 2-in-1 products make falling in love twice as simple, how you ask, well, I don’t know, I did not finish reading the email; and Pillsbury that asked me if I would be interested in sharing the Valentine doughboy with by friends on Facebook, the idea behind such an action is totally unintelligible to me.

 Once you are married and you get it into your nut that Valentine's Day is a day when you shall kick your spouse if he doesn’t show up with gifts, you have reached the second stage of the profoundly tender passion--true love, and cannot but be relieved that you shall not have to dance with a banjo to impress a prospective lover anymore. To celebrate this respite I am willing to part with fifty Jacksons! But Valentine's Day is all about the pursuit of love, you say, and may be I give the aye to you for the idea; still how you can express true love in a stifling restaurant smelling of food and bustling with a thousand equally deep lovers like you all vying to express courtly love under candle light, beats me. May be we are stretching the thing to an extreme bit; may be Valentine's Day is more personal than we want it to be; may be true love really doesn’t need cards and chocolates to commemorate its presence. But today we shall leave the argument at this point and wish the lovers all the very best in their love pursuit.

I would, however, end my blog post with an unromantic personal revelation. Last evening as I was cleaning up my apartment, I discovered the burlap full of love notes and cards that I had sent my husband via the Great Indian Post before we got married. The box had been marinating in our closet since a time out of mind. I had first discovered the box two days after I came to stay with him, and that was four years ago, that time I had tenderly gone through the mushy revelations and prided myself for composing such priceless tokens of love. The total weight of my love notes was an astounding ten pounds; and since the airline would not allow me an extra-suitcase for my love letters, I had to discard them before we pack our suitcases for our journey back to India. I felt sad for a while thinking that I was jettisoning romantic love for the purpose of practicality, but these days the world demands you be practical and mature. Moreover, back in the apartment, when I discovered my husband deliberating which restaurant to take me to this evening, I realized that in the confusion, I may have struck the right note somewhere, albeit without knowing. I bade my love cards a final adieu and proffered to enjoy Valentine's Day in a more practical way.