Be my Quarantine

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Be my Quarantine

Will someone tell me why this day is a one big celebration of cheesiness?

By Indrajit Hazra

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Published: Fri 14 Feb 2014, 12:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:52 PM

With very little effort on my part, I have come to the conclusion that what was once considered St Valentine’s Day across most parts of Christendom, and now is celebrated as Valentine’s Day the world over, is really a festival of super-cheesiness.
I say it without little effort on my part because the global greetings cards industry makes this observation obvious.

Valentine, or as his Latin-loving pals would call him, Valentinus, was a 3rd century resident of Rome who was imprisoned by the authorities for performing weddings for soldiers who were not allowed to marry, and for tending to persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire. This proto-hippie who was clearly running a clandestine dating service for soldiers who were supposed to be focused on their job apparently cured the daughter of his jailer from a terrible illness. The story goes that before Valentinus was executed, he wrote a letter to the girl signed ‘Your Valentine’. Somehow, that sounded far more romantic than ‘Your Rajinder’ and it stuck as a byword for romantic love.

Now, frankly, the Valentinus/Valentine story could have led to a moving story or a biopic starring Christian ‘Batman’ Bale as V, Scarlett Johansson as the jailer’s daughter, and Naseeruddin Shah as the jailer. With some pivotal scenes inside the Colosseum, it would have been Oscar material. But instead, what has come out of the story of Valentinus? The day of his death, February 14, has become a day observed as a special occasion for boys and men to give girls and women stuffed toys, chocs and greeting cards. And for a stroll in the mall or, for those a bit more serious and senior, a dinner for two.

And cashing in on the whole Valentine’s Day franchise are restaurants and other retail-mongers setting up ‘Valentine’s Special’ sales and services. But it’s the greeting cards that are the real signature item of Valentine’s Day. It is rather amazing that millions of people pick up a folded piece of cardboard, usually depicting flowers or teddy bears or something instinctively banal and cute inside, which some lonely person in a cubicle with a knack for words and a failed career as a writer has written something. This something, will even more incredibly, make the recipient of the card believe that these words somehow are exactly what the giver wants to say.

So, to take the example of the Valentine’s card that I ruffled through in a shop for the purpose of research for this piece, the following words are supposed to be what I mean when I hand over the card to my Valentine: “Thoughts of love are too deep to be expressed and are too strong to be suppressed. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Clearly, strength has triumphed over depth with the recipient of the card telepathically aware of the giver’s outsourced feelings. Clearly again, just saying what you have to or even writing it down in your own words is something that’s apparently ludicrous.

And how on earth can this Valentine message possibly make anyone blush? “Aah... I forgot your name. Can I call you mine? And in case you forgot my name too, call me yours.” I’m told it’s clever and cute. I’m told that Titanic should have won six more Oscars too.

I don’t want to be a bone in the kebab, but Valentine’s Day is just one kitschy-cheesy romp where even counting the number of Valentine cards to gauge one’s popularity is redundant in these times of Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

But the greeting cards industry is in love during the days running up to V-Day. In love with the chi-ching sound of cash registers while everyone pretends to be acne-pitted, knees-askew tweens with ready-made blushes.

I’ve not boarded myself up to be as far away from people today, because I find Valentine’s Day to be far removed from the ‘original’ notion of romantic love. (I find most things far removed from their original purpose to be better.) I’ve turned today into Quarantine’s Day because of all the possibilities of expressing romantic fondness, it was to be through this cheesy, maudlin process of doling out bad, overpriced and useless gifts.

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