Forget intellectualism, definitions of love, and commercial exploitation. Just buy the damn rose!
KARACHI: That time of year when the city is awash with red. Not as ominous at it sounds, or on second thoughts, perhaps it is: Valentine’s day is coming.
This is the time of year when Pakistani culture explodes in self-righteous indignation. The conservatives say Valentine’s Day is not culturally relevant; it’s a pollution of our culture. Some take it a step further and insist it’s clever Western propaganda, luring impressionable youth toward spangly, red (and one assumes eventually white and blue) frivolity and away from good ol’ eastern values. Liberals insist it’s an exploitation of love and a commercialisation of human emotion.
For a while now, the reaction du jour has been to scoff at Valentine’s Day. And to the scoffers I say, damn those grapes must be sour. I know because they were so for me. I went through middle to senior school sporting a peach fuzz moustache and hair that I regularly dosed with Ritalin just to make it stay on my head. Valentine’s Day was pure hurtful hell. I’d be the person friends would use as the ‘middle woman’; those too shy to be direct would have me deliver the roses, chocolates, bears, perfumes et al. Fun!
So, in self defence I developed a carefully crafted armour of cynicism and soi-distant reserve. Valentine’s Day didn’t want me? Well, I didn’t want it. I’d loudly hail the arrival of February with vitriolic love bashing. I was of the ‘commercialisation of love’ camp, which I compounded with the question ‘What is love anyway? Hormones? Oh, so it’s actually happy hormone day, then?’. My reaction became so automatic that I did not even notice when the cynicism stopped being a front and just became me.
Then I got married. My husband shared my Valentine belief system. Together we stood on our lofty pedestals of cynicism and scoffed at the rose buying masses. Let them squander their cash on bloomed chocolates and polar bears clutching red, velour hearts.
Six years on and one baby later, and I can feel that the thick aspic of cynicism start to melt. It’s nice to let your gooey centre show.
Even if Karachi didn’t constantly require nerves and spines (and other body parts) of steel as well as an excess of detachment, it might actually be okay to declare yourself in love. It makes you happy, makes the recipient happy, so why the hell not? Forget intellectualism, definitions of love, and commercial exploitation. Just buy the damn rose!
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2011.