Monday, May 07, 2007

Article - Valentine's Day

What’s love got to do with it?

It is that time of the year …for love! Phone calls, giggles and scribbles on cards! Greeting cards and gifts fly back and forth, restaurants are booked to the brim come February 14th and hotels do their fair bit by offering complimentary valentine’s day-goodies for diners and setting up cozy corners galore. Shopping malls approach this day with aplomb – just like they would any another traditional, festive occasion…what with the ballooning red and pink hearts on display and ‘Valentine Day Specials’.

February 14th is celebrated as Valentine’s day. The countdown begins soon after the Pongal festival’s excitement dies down. The Valentine’s Day furore is something to reckon with these days! Few people know or even care about what brought this hype on! As far as most are concerned, it is another special occasion to get cracking on dates, parties and dine-outs. In short, for most youngsters, it serves as a great multi-fold distraction – going out, talking even more about love and romance, and an excuse to spend a tad more money in buying cards and little gifts.

Hype aside, a great deal has been speculated on the supposed origin and history of this day. A widely-accepted story is about a Roman priest named Valentine who went against the then Emperor’s rule -- that no marriages for young, robust men be allowed as the Emperor believed that unmarried and unattached men made better soldiers. The priest saw the injustice in this and began secretly performing marriages for young couples desperately in love. In other words, the legend has it that against all odds, he brought two people in love together and in the process got himself caught, imprisoned and executed.

The story says that whilst in prison, he befriended the jailor’s daughter and just before the execution on February 14th, he wrote this young girl a letter signed “from your Valentine”. This is St. Valentine’s story…

Apparently there are more (or less!) facts and variations to this story / legend but the bottom line in every one of them is Saint Valentine -- a heroic figure who put the welfare of love and romance before his very life.

For us Indians, there is no dearth of romantic heroes from our past either, including mythical heroes and the various Gods and Goddesses. Rare indeed is any story we have heard that is devoid of heroism, romance, lust, infatuation or love. For such a dramatic people, another reason (albeit foreign and in no way relevant) to celebrate love is always welcome! So, what if Valentine’s Day originated in faraway Rome? So what if everybody is woolly about the legitimate history behind it? So what if this whole thing with St. Valentine may just have nothing at all to do with love and romance?

Everybody seems happy celebrating it. For the youth, this is like a once-in-a-“love time” opportunity on a platter – an excuse to walk up to the guy or gal who suits your fancy and declare your feelings…or indeed state the same (even anonymously sometimes), from behind a flowery greeting card. Moreover, let’s face the fact that there are business avenues for a lot of people to make some money out of all this hype.

However, there are many people amidst this hullabaloo, who can be seen with carefully assumed poker faces on 14th of February. They are the ones who think that celebrating days like Mothers’ day, Fathers’ day and Valentine’s Day is hogwash and a complete waste of valuable time and money. To each, his own.

Above all this, there is no clear take on whether this day is celebrated with just romance in mind, or love as such in all its various shades of glory – maternal, paternal, sibling, friendship and so on.

Still, if you love romance, you should not let the skeptics cloud your aura. After all, be you a believer or non-believer that warm glow in your heart can also be rekindled if you receive a Valentine this year!

What is life without a little love?


Sujata Tarakesan.

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