“I love you! … I think.”
Seems to be the catch-word, these days. On the one hand you have clutches of seasoned Gen Xs (or is it Y?) hanging about the super-elite haunts, clutching enormously expensive trinkets that the average Chennaiite even shudders to look at – and then you have impossibly dreamy-eyed youngsters who recite long and hopelessly romantic passages about lasting love. TV Channels have endlessly repeating loops of phone-in shows where dippy twenty-somethings drawl about the “love songs” they’re dedicating to so-and-so (mostly without their parents knowledge, they say.). Colleges run rampant with mass-bunkings. Or at least, talk about mass-bunks. Whether X or Y really does possess enough gumption to stroll around hand in hand with their partner is debatable (more so, when the partner is the same sex.). Still, there’s the fun of doing something you think you’re forbidden to do, on other days.
You hope so, at any rate. Either way, someone gets something out of the new millennium’s biggest festival – Valentine’s Day.
And true to the modern metro’s mantra, shops and florists have a field day.
Sales have shot through the roof, apparently for small-time retailers like the one right beside my home. “We were open until eleven last night,” Sunitha Mahendran, the owner of Abhi’s Fancy Store in Nungambakkam, recalls. Her little shop stores everything from CDs to porcelain knickknacks that have two Malayalees battling to purchase (supposedly for their girlfriends, whom they name loudly, so I and other assorted customers can hear them.). There are bright red hearts nodding on wires, to take the place of roses, bulbs twinkling. “What with the bandh and everything at Bangalore, people are forced to give up roses and buy these hearts. We’ve made a killing,” her eyes sparkle. I doubt that she, shrewd business woman, has had time for a Valentine outing with her husband. She’s certainly pretty enough. On the other hand, one cannot spend time gazing into your partner’s starry eyes if you want to make “a killing.”
Sixth and seventh standard students, according to her, have been her biggest customers. “They say they want hearts for their boyfriends or girlfriends,” she murmurs awed. “And the cellphone counter across the road has sold in thousands. They’re gifting those for Valentine’s Day. It’s like Deepavali, you know?”
Then you have people like Kanhupriya, a workshop coordinator. “I’m trying to get my husband to come out for dinner,” she says wearily. “Thing is, he’s so busy …”
Not very romantic, is it?
“No no, of course we’re going out,” she’s quick to assure me. “It’s just that … you know? These things are complicated. Today’s celebrations are so commercial. I don’t see why we need something like this to suddenly discover our love for each other. But whatever. It’s an excuse to hang out. I definitely believe in Valentine’s day.”
Friend and lover of Bharathiyar’s poems writes in, about love, “Is there such a thing as true love? Is there any truth other than love (kAthal)? kAthal manaiviyE sakthi kaNdIr/kadavuL nilai avaLal eythal vENdum! That’s what Mahakavi says. Thats my philosophy as well.” He further goes on to elaborate that everyone ought to have a shot at finding true love. As he’s been successful at it, he wishes everyone else will, too.
I leave him in his justly euphoric heaven and descend back to reality, clutching my own remainder of Valentine’s Day – a picture of the Hutch billboard at the turning into Cenotaph Road, with rose balloons stuck all over. Something’s seriously wrong if I can look at that billboard and only think that it would make a nice accompaniment for a post on Valentine’s Day. But hey, as Master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi says, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.” Or some such thing. Or is it, “Your focus determines your reality?”
Perhaps we will all find true love from nodding plastic hearts, some day. As O’Henry, that master of words says in “The Lonesome Road,” in the voice of confirmed bachelor and cynic Buck, who shakes his head at his friend’s mindless marriage, “But when I saw the look that wife of his gave Perry Rountree … why was it that I got the idea that all in a minute that look of hers was worth more than the caboodle of us, sarsaparilla, checkers and all …?”
Buck might be right. Who knows?
A Happy Valentine’s Day (or what’s left of it), all.