Why my grandson is my valentine

Musings on everyday life


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Thu 15 Feb 2024, 7:44 AM

As I sit to write this column on a Valentine's Day, the world, drowning in a sea of roses, would be bleeding love. Like there's no tomorrow. Millions of notes dripping romance would exchange hands — and hearts — at candlelight dinners. The world outside of my cocoon would be delirious while I try to fathom why love has to wait a full year to celebrate itself.

In times past, we never celebrated Valentine's Day. We hadn’t even heard about it though it must have been there in other parts of the world. We didn’t have the patience to wait for a date to arrive to express love. It's all said and done on the spot, and you know if you are ‘in’ or ‘out’ immediately. Date was something that existed only in the Gregorian calendar. Scribbles of feelings were exchanged ensconced in the science data book called Clark's table.

Roses were neither beheaded nor sacrificed for the sake of love. In fact, they had nothing to do with love. They flourished in our gardens nursed and loved by all the mothers and sisters. "Don't touch my flowers," they would order if you dared go anywhere close to the plant. Poor things didn't know romance was all about flowers and that by some estimates, as many as 250 million roses are grown on the planet in anticipation of Valentine's Day every year.

In our days, if ever the need for a floral gesture arose in the business of love, we did it with a roadside daisy on the way to our college. If the girl wore it in her well-oiled hair, it would mean love has just blossomed. Of all the places in the world, in her crown.

For that matter, no teacher taught us "Roses are red, violets are blue, the honey is sweet, and so are you". In Indian classic movies, the silver screen hero ran around the garden singing, "Oh my daisy" and the camera would zoom in on some overgrown shrubs dotted with cute little flowers and then pan to show a yellow bouquet on the heroine's hair overdone with a bun. A close-up of her fluttering eyes was inevitable.

The handsomest boy in our college was one guy named Shine. And naturally, he felt unfathomable love for the prettiest girl named Rathi on the campus. During lunch breaks, and all other short ones between lectures, he would place himself outside her classroom, peering at her through the window. Like a convict behind bars. He had all the handsomeness of the world but didn't have the guts to express his emotions. He would wait for her to throw a glance or two before returning to his classroom.

One fine morning, Shine gathered all the courage he could and whispered in a jiffy as she returned from the washroom: "I love you." What happened in the following moments was the butt of joke in the rest of the academic year and at all alumni get-togethers decades later. "Sorry Shine, it's only this morning I said 'yes' to your friend. Love is to express. You lost it by a whisker. Procrastination ruins life. Grow up, Shine." It was the best ever lesson we learned on the campus.

And at some point in life, when alternative civilisation came to roost in our hearts, we loved roses as much as we did daisy. Life outside India opened up a brave new world where we witnessed a rally of Valentines, dates and roses. Romance was just another sip of Chardonnay in everyday life. My first column on Valetine's Day a few years ago was aptly and provocatively headlined 'Here's to all other women in my life'.

Fastforward to the age where life is all about preening feathers in an empty nest, Valentine's Day now gathers a whole new meaning. The day sheds the veneer of romance and becomes more inclusive. It's a spontaneous overflow of emotions expressed to fellow humans in the purest form of tranquility. Be it the Gazans or Israelis; Ukrainians or Russians; parents or grandparents; brothers or sisters; boys or girls, let everyone get to relish the manna of love.

My Valentine this time is a cute little child. In fact, he's my hero. Zayne, my grandchild, fills my life with all the happiness one would need in his sunset days. Sunshine is my term of endearment for the 'Little Buddha'. At our weekend meetings, the sudden sight of grandpa would light up his face. Eyes would widen, and a smile would spring like a bed of roses. He would then leap onto my chest, take my face with his little hands and stare into my eyes. He would play the drum on my naked crown. And when the concert of love crescendos, he would gift me a nibble on my nose. I would spend the whole of next week nursing the bites of love.

Vinay Kamath called the other day and said the boy was growing fast. My daughter confided recently she didn't want her son to grow up so quickly. A look at his pictorial progression on Instagram — from a bundle of joy on his mother's chest to a toddler who resists any helping hand — scares me. At some point in the continuum between a child and an adult, he would find his own Valentine. I will then just be a post on Insta which he may or may not see.

Love breeds jealousy.


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