Crimes against Northeast women: Is the state concerned enough ?

Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam *

Tree decorated for Valentine's Day in San Diego, California
Tree decorated for Valentine's Day in San Diego, California :: Pix - Johntex/Wikipedia

"To some people, love doesn't exist unless you acknowledge it in front of other people."
- Valentine's Day (2010)

There are six ways of reacting to Valentine's Day.

One, you take a leaf out of conservative right-wing activism and try to ban the celebration. This Western import ruins the moral fabric of our culture. To admit that you love somebody is a huge spiritual crime.

Two, you do the exact opposite and openly celebrate it with your significant other(s). You truly invest your feelings, money and energy into the whole affair.

Three, you may or may not care about February 14 being marked the day of love, but it's important that you make others care. You're probably a florist or you sell greeting cards and gift-items.

Four, you detest Valentine's Day because it reminds you of the fact that you're single. Never mind the fact that being single is not as terrible a condition as suffering from a terminal disease; to you, it's the most horrid situation imaginable.

Five, February 14 is just a date in your calendar. You may make fun of others who take its romantic significance seriously. Or, you say, "Let others have their fun. Personally, I refuse to be a part of it." Or, you're too apathetic to react in any way; you just ignore the noise and spend the day in joyful oblivion.

Six, you don't know how to feel about Valentine's Day. You're aware that even if you don't buy into it, there're plenty of people who do. You're attacked by various promotional campaigns, may it be in the papers or on the TV. There is a part of you that wants to articulate your views and respond.

This is basically me every year on this date. I'm conflicted. I think it's stupid to hate Valentine's Day and blame sexual crimes on it, but the entire concept of this festival as far as the popular version is concerned is silly. The only unadulterated pleasure I get from it is the abundance of romantic comedy movies on cable TV. However, HBO has decided that Jim Carrey's The Mask qualifies as a romantic comedy this Valentine's season, so I'm no longer sure about that either.

Having said that, what right have I to rain on others' parade? Live and let live. I have no intentions of being a killjoy. However, I'm fascinated by the intensely commercial aspect of Valentine's Day, so I'm going to take this opportunity to mull over things a bit.

According to a survey published in The New Indian Express, Valentine's Day market in India is valued at fifteen crore Rupees. The participants of this survey included 800 executives in major metropolitan cities and over a thousand students from 150 educational institutions. The research found that men spend double the amount than women; flowers and jewellery are the most popular gifts, although expensive gadgets are becoming common choices for presents; travel agencies are now offering V-Day tour packages; it's not just couples who're emptying their wallets. There are individuals buying cards, friendship bands and pink roses for their friends, regardless of the fact that Friendship Day in August will provide them a solid reason for making similar expenses.

The more interesting revelation of this report, as far as I am concerned, is that Valentine's Day has apparently become a week-long bonanza. Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) offered an explanation for the monstrous returns made on the festival's account: it's largely down to the other "Days" leading up to it. Yes, this is the wondrous reality your mundane yearly calendars have been hiding from you:

February 7: Rose Day; February 8: Proposal Day; February 9: Chocolate Day; February 10: Teddy Day; February 11: Promise Day; February 12: Hug Day; February 13: Kiss Day

I will be completely honest here; I wasn't aware of this arrangement at all before reading the article. There have been moments in my life when I heard snatches of conversation where "Rose Day" was a topic, but Chocolate Day? Promise Day? How do they function? I'm having trouble imagining a scenario where a wish like "Happy Teddy Day" wouldn't sound ridiculous, even though statistics clearly reveal otherwise. Lakhs of Indian citizens are taking this seriously.

So, here's a question I'd like to ask out of genuine curiosity: what does Valentine's Day mean? Is it meant for the expression of love, romantic or not? Let's argue that there's nothing wrong with having one day in a year to symbolise love. In that case, why should there be a need to put a price tag on your own emotions? Shouldn't a simple wish suffice? Isn't it enough to spend some time with those whom you consider special?

Although there's an inconsistency surrounding the identity of the saint in whose honour it began, the most popular theory concerns a Roman priest who married Christian couples against the laws of the time. We've come a far way since then, so far that popular media will have you believe that if you don't have someone to celebrate the day with or buy you candy on February 14, your existence is automatically miserable. Films and sitcoms focussing on this occasion emphasise this point over and over again.

For nearly two decades of "adult life", I've let this festival fly past me in its heart-shaped, Cupid-winged glory, without contributing to Archies' profit. No, I don't have any personal vendetta against Archies Ltd.; nor am I opposed to receiving chocolate and flowers. In fact, I highly endorse declaration of love and exchange of gifts, no matter how small. Such events should occur whenever possible. September 30, for example, seems as good a day as February 14 for being surprised with a nice bouquet of roses. It's just that my philosophy on love is simple: it has no business being restricted to only twenty-fours, or equated with a greeting card singing Happy Valentine's Day.

* Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of 'The Methodical Magpie'
This article was posted on February 15, 2013

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