"Who is your Valentine?" quizzed my better half. I gave a blank look. I didn't have a clue of what she meant. This was February 13, 1992. With no Google to fall back on and being posted in a remote area of Rajasthan, the cantonment's central library was our source of information for all things sundry.
A stranger to the quiet environs of the library, I chose to let my wife explore the subject of her choice as I sneaked into the neighbouring officers' club. A get-together of youngsters of the station was on. They were discussing the modus operandi for celebrating V-Day. I caught snatches of the conversation and thought I was adequately equipped to reply to my wife's poser.
The same night, the TV news reported of countrywide protests planned against Valentine's Day celebrations. The correspondent was interviewing an angry gentleman on why he was opposed to the celebrations. He looked confident as he spoke that the celebrations were anti-national and a threat to the country's sovereignty and integrity. The gentleman could not offer a coherent explanation but he kept repeating the word ashleelta (vulgarity).
A politician backing the protests was on air too. He was asked, "Sir, what is your take on Valentine's Day?" "It's a dangerous practice and will break up the nation". "How, sir?" "You see, our neighbour is misguiding our citizens and this a sinister campaign of the ISI." "But sir, how?" "You will not understand this deep-rooted game plan. They want our youth to indulge in wasteful expenditure, effort and emotions.
The card industry will get a boost, ruining the economy. See there will be waste of wood, pulp and water." The exasperated interviewer butted in again, "Sir, what is Valentine's Day?" "Now don't test my knowledge, I am a six-time MLA and the general secretary of a party." The correspondent insisted and the leader snapped back, "Your question is politically motivated and I am walking out."
That was 20 years ago. I was reminded of my ignorance as I spent last Sunday evening on a shopping spree, for my wife. There were options galore. News channels were abuzz with forthcoming V-Day plans, while reporters reminded us of the protesting groups of the '90s.
But I missed the fuss over the occasion. The prime time debate was not as spicy with panellists choosing the same side of the fence.
At home, the Valentine fever is on. My wife asked me the same question. This time I was bang on target and my reply had a magical effect. I now await the dawn of February 14, 2013, when she gets a surprise gift and I my favourite breakfast. Long live the day of love and longing!
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org