Love in a small town is very secretive and very passionate. Secretive because of the need to hide your affair from everyone while the passion is measured by the number of teddy bears gifted to each other. The bigger the bear the stronger the bond. Since I too come from a small town, my love story some 20 years ago contributed a lot towards Archies and Hallmark stores making profits. My boy gave me teddy bears in different colours on every occasion. Though I would have preferred a chocolate bar instead, I didn’t have the heart to tell him. Giving a further boost to the economy and to add to my misery, new love days started popping up. Teddy bear day, rose day, friendship day, propose day, promise day, kiss day to f*$%&*@ hug day. The list kept evolving over the years and so the teddies kept piling up at home.
One day when he came over to my place, discreetly of course, he spotted a teddy bear he had gifted me. The eye was missing and the cotton popped out from there instead, the spring inside the tail now was waving outside dejectedly and the stomach had a C-sec performed on it. Another fluorescent blue teddy had his body intact but was missing his furry head. I think I scared him that day. Though it was all the doing of my dog Figo, I let him think that I might have a violent streak which gets aggravated with teddy bears. That was the last of it.
We then graduated to being the cool ones who looked down upon Valentine’s Day as cheesy, wannabe and too small towny for us “intellectuals” who wondered why we should limit expressing our love for each other to one day. Also every nerve and pore of my being used to cringe when I used to come across the line ‘Will you be my Valentine?’
At that time my reaction made sense to me. But now I realise how difficult it was — and still is — to express love in India’s smaller towns where young adults have voting rights but not the right to choose a partner for themselves. Barricades of moral judgment, hurdles of abuse and guilt trips and threats of exile are thrown in the way of lovelorn couples. And if you’re a girl, the obstructions along with the expectations of being pure and pious are multiplied 10 times, no, a 100 times. And if at all the couple manages to mystically surpass all these hindrances and make it the level of ‘now we are mature, we have jobs, we can live in ….oh gosh what did I just say, this was blasphemous, let me redeem myself…I mean get married’, the caste googly comes in!! That’s so unfair kyunki after all these years jiske saath permutation/combination bana sala woh apni biradari ka nahin hai?! Instead of shooting arrows that make people fall in love like the Valentine’s Day Cupid, some people shoot arrows at them literally elevating them straight to the heavens. Why are we scared of love? What is there to be insecure about when all love does is release happy hormones and we become extra nice to our bully brother, irritating sister, nosy parents and the annoying neighbor Mrs Sharma? Why do we still have headlines about couples in love being shamed, stoned and killed for the sake of so-called honour?
Dying for love is such irony. I was recently at Kaziranga national park in Assam and heard the story of the Great Hornbill birds who live in monogamous pairs. Their mating starts in March, but before that the practical couple looks for a nesting tree hole. Perhaps an attached kitchen gets preference but the birds will not mate till they find a home conducive to both their needs. Way too practical I say. But what is both tragic and touching is that if one of them dies the other succumbs too. No caste system or religious divide here, just love. And the fact that they get to choose their mate and home makes them far more progressive than some homo sapiens!
So considering the times we live in, I change my stance that Valentine’s Day is cheesy. No, it’s not. In fact, we should express our love even more freely so that loving isn’t considered a crime. No one should need to run and hide just because they love someone from another caste, religion or have a different sexual preference. What binds us is that we are all humans wanting the same things in life: Happiness and love. And each of us deserves that.
I have been born into a Hindu family with a Sikh influence as my parents had a love marriage. I believe in humanity as my religion. My first name is Persian, my surname Hindu and my first crush was on a Christian boy. So let me introduce myself on this day to you, “Hi I am Tahira Kashyap, will you be my Valentine?”
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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