On Valentine's Day, the card industry tells us to declare our love with its teddy bears and paper creations. The jewellery stores tell us that every kiss begins in their store. From beer companies to car makers, from lingerie brands to jeans designers all want us to splurge a little here and a little there. If you spend no money, you get no honey.
But we grew up believing in John, Paul, George, and Ringo Starr, The Beatles, two told us in their hit song "I don't care too much for money" that "money can't buy me love". Lately, I wonder if The Beatles even had any clue. Valentine's Day is the biggest money spinner of the year for the card, flower, and dining industries. Their total revenue for the day in the United States alone is in billions of dollars. People will go to any length to woo the one they love and capital is no object.
However, when I was growing up in the mid-1980s in Chandigarh, the commercialisation of love in India had not yet started. What we knew of Valentine's Day was from what we had read in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Parlement of Foules". To profess our affection, we did not have cards, chocolates and gifts. We had to be creative. We'd make hand-drawn cards and leave them in the mailboxes of our crushes. Depending on the severity of the infatuation, we would add a bar of Cadbury's chocolate to the surprise package.
As the late 1980s started to roll, Valentine's Day celebrations began to pick up. A local card shop in Sector 11 is became a popular hangout of college students. Girls would go there hoping to get a card or two from suitors. Within a few years, the day became a rage in the city, when the youngsters would throng the Geri Route. Free flowing flowers, cards, chocolates, stuffed toys and balloons gave the road a carnival feeling. Everyone went there to see and be seen.
Chandigarhians have kept the tradition going but the simplicity of the old days is gone. Handmade cards and a simple chocolate bar will not get a prospective lover very far now. We live in the days where 'celebrating love' is a big commercial industry, with an Abu Dhabi hotel selling $1-lakh V-Day package, complete with stay at the presidential suite, fresh flowers, gourmet chocolates, champagne, caviar facial, and rooftop dinner; what if only a lucky 1% out there can afford that. "Say you don't need no diamond ring and I'll be satisfied," he sang. Move over Paul McCartney, today money can buy love. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Sona Sethi is a US-based freelance writer.)