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Say it with flowers

It happened in 1986. It was a crisp sunny Valentine?s Day and I remember the brilliance of the bright blue sky. My desk at London Weekend Television, where I worked, overlooked the Thames and the view that morning was stunning, writes Karan Thapar.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2006 00:21 IST
Sunday Sentiments | Karan Thapar
Sunday Sentiments | Karan Thapar

It happened in 1986. It was a crisp sunny Valentine’s Day and I remember the brilliance of the bright blue sky. My desk at London Weekend Television, where I worked, overlooked the Thames and the view that morning was stunning. It was the first Valentine’s Day after my wedding that I can remember. Nisha and I had been married three years but the tradition of gifting red roses was not a part of our lives.

Around noon, whilst bantering with friends over coffee, the phone rang. It was the lady from the reception to say someone had delivered a gift and should she send it up. I said she should but even so I was unsuspecting. I assumed it was a book for reviewing or a corporate package from a company about to hold its AGM.

Minutes later an attractive svelte blond with hair that swayed as she moved sashayed out of the lift and into the office. She paused beside the first desk, bent down to speak and then continued in my direction. Three feet short, she dramatically dropped to her knees, stretched out her right-hand and proffered a single red rose.

“From a secret admirer,” she said deliberately loudly. “She wants you to know she loves you very much.”

Practically everyone on the tenth floor at LWT burst out laughing. I turned beetroot red. But inside I was thrilled. Who could this be? To have an admirer is wonderful, but a secret one who had sent me red roses by special courier on Valentine’s Day was almost beyond imagining.

After the teasing and joking ended, I rang Nisha to tell her. She responded with a strange non-committal silence. I was so wrapped up in my story I failed to notice she wasn’t saying very much.

“So Baba,” she cooed, far too knowingly to be natural. “You have a secret admirer! Any idea who it might be?”

“Haven’t the foggiest,” I responded, still delighted by the mystery.

“Silly boy,” she laughed. Nisha sounded pleased with herself. “Do you really think there could be two women who love you?”

“Who’s the first?” I asked, perplexed.

“Your wife, you fool!”

I was stunned. I thought Nisha would be the last person to send me roses on Valentine’s Day. Her gesture had completely taken me in. As I gasped for something to say, she continued: “See you in the evening and remember you’re cooking dinner tonight!”

It’s such displays of affection that the RSS seems to be against. That, after all, is the ultimate consequence of its decision to oppose Valentine’s Day. According to newspaper reports their spokesperson has concluded that sending red roses — or other gifts — to people you care for is un-Indian. Perhaps, but is it wrong? And does the RSS fully realise what this objection seems to imply?

In the land of Khajuraho, Konark and the Kama Sutra, the perfection of sex is, undeniably, part of Indian tradition. No one has taken this art to higher levels. Even the RSS cannot deny that — although, like the rest of their countrymen, it’s true they’ve forgotten the valuable lessons our forefathers left behind. Today, Indians might possibly be masters of theory but they are very definitely dreadful practitioners of the art of making love.

Now what the RSS seems to be saying is that sex is Indian but affection and love are not. It’s Indian to learn how to kiss and copulate but not how to court and woo. In other words, sex without emotion we accept, but sentiment and affection we reject.

Odd! I thought the West stood for ‘wham bang thank you mam’ whilst Indians believed that sex without love was akin to animal procreation! Suddenly it seems to be the other way round. Should we be grateful to the RSS or have they got it wrong?

I’ll let the elders of the Sangh answer that question although I’m keen to know what it will be. Let me instead point out that these views accord most closely with those of the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia. By means of an official fatwa the dour Saudis banned red roses this Valentine’s Day. And in case the amorous citizenry thought otherwise most florists chose to stay shut. Reading about this in the Financial Times I couldn’t help but groan. The RSS, no doubt, would have smiled. It only proves great minds think alike or...

Would you say the other half of that famous equation fits better?

First Published: Feb 19, 2006 00:21 IST