Something strange happened today—I almost found myself in agreement with HT City. “Are we being conned?” screamed the headlines, asking if Valentine’s day was a gimmick thought up to line the pockets of sellers of pink and heart-shaped things. Unfortunately, a closer look revealed that the placement of the story was probably a gimmick itself. And my world was righted.
Citing a survey “across platforms”, HT came up with the revelation that 42 per cent (of youngsters aged 18 to 25) agreed that it is a con, followed by 35 per cent who thought it probably is but are willing to be wooed, and bringing up the rear were the remaining 23 per cent who felt it is a “worldwide tradition” that ought to be embraced.
Like most of these sort of polls, a closer look at the sample told a different story: 340 respondents in a city with over 16 million residents (23 million if you count the entire NCR) is hardly representative. Moreover, one would hardly imagine the “platforms” the survey was conducted on—website, social media, FM radio channel and face-to-face (and they got only 340 people?!)—made any effort to reach every corner of its complex society. Yet another testimony of how the day is targeted at a class able to spend money.
Up until liberalization in the early 1990s, we in India really hadn’t much notion of Valentine’s Day. The first I heard of it was as a pre-teen, through an aunt who worked at a Christian missionary school and was generally better informed about saints and their “days” than anyone else I knew. It was only around the mid-1990s that the commercialization started (as I recall it). Twenty years later, Valentine’s Day is a money-spinning blitz coated in shiny, glittery marketing, and pushed down our throats in a package of emotional blackmail.
Most of the carrots are dangled in front of youngsters—”Tell your special someone that you love them. All you need is this heart-shaped chocolate wrapped in pink shiny paper, and here’s a bunch of roses and a fluffy teddy bear holding a card with mushy verses inside just in case they are a bit slow.” And if you’re slightly older, there’s always that special Valentine’s Day dinner or romantic getaway. These messages are also continually reinforced by deviously planting in impressionable minds the idea that if you get it wrong, there is something lacking in your relationship. Thus, an unrelenting pressure to conform, without really stopping to wonder why.
My general derision for Valentine’s Day does not mean I’m opposed to romance or love. Just that the idea that you’re supposed to express it in a certain way on a certain day is loathsome (to me). Especially because doing so will mean I’ve fallen for the marketing brainwashing. Also, who can really get excited about a day that “revolves around a deranged baby with a weapon” (from Switched at Birth)?!
Call me regressive, but if you love someone, they should know it by how you are every day, not because you buy them overpriced roses and take them to dinner because a shiny ad in the papers said so.