A friend of mine is coming to Delhi on 13th February. After we graduated from school, he left to pursue engineering in Mumbai, while I stayed back to study at Delhi University. I haven’t seen him in over two years now. So when he got in touch with me on Facebook and told me about his plans of coming home (albeit, only for two days), my first reaction was a squeal of utter delight! I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting him after what seemed like an eternity. But then, the realisation of the dangers of arranging a rendezvous on Valentine’s Day fell like a curtain of doom on all my plans.
He proposed that we catch up over coffee on Tuesday. Now, Tuesday is 14th of February. And honestly, I am extremely shy of being seen with a boy on that day. In my mind, I’m open-minded and progressive. But our society still is not. Last year, a week prior to Valentine’s Day, the newspaper was flooded with reports about orthodox political and religious groups creating a huge uproar about V-Day celebrations. Some of the hardened politicos even threatened to impose bans on couples. Some extremists had ambitious plans of marrying off the couples on the spot! Now what nefarious plans these very people have devised for this year??
In the light of last year’s showdown, I consider my timidity and hesitation but natural. After all, I don’t want to be married off or some regressive penalties imposed for going out with a guy.
It’s disdainful that Valentine’s Day couples have to retreat to dark corners to celebrate their expression of love. It is grossly amusing when our leaders speak of liberalisation, be it in trade, commerce or policy, when their own minds are illiberal and shackled by old-fashioned ideas from a bygone era. Such double standards and hypocrisy are reflective of India’s stagnated growth. Because indeed, India’s transition from a developing to a developed nation will not just require improving economic indicators like GDP, inflation, employment and output; but also changes in the environment. Accepting couples out on Valentine’s Day, is the kind of change I am looking for.
We need to broaden our ideas of love, affection and its exhibition. But questioning, obliterating and replacing our obsolete, yet rigid ideas could take months, years and even decades! I’m not hopeful of an overnight change. So this Valentine’s Day, I’ll have to turn down my friend’s offer to take me out to Barista. Instead, I may have to lock myself up at home and maybe spend the evening watching RomComs on television. Let’s see.
Watch this space!!