Love is in the air and how. Come February and wherever you look, this love thing is getting ready to hit you in the face. You can’t miss this modern-day love. You open the newspaper and you could spend the next 30 minutes searching for the morning’s news in it, to no avail. You see, Valentine’s Day is here and every manufacturer/retailer worth his salt is spending big bucks splashing out on ads that exhort the poor male part of the loved-up twosome to spend his hard earned moolah on everything from heart shaped pendants, solitaires and stuffed toys to aphrodisiacal meals that will ensure lots of action immediately afterwards. Champagne and chocolate- dipped strawberries are passé . Now they are telling the guys to whisk off the ladies on helicopter rides that will transport them to secret island getaways where they will get couple massages with champagne and strawberry, following which they scoot off to bed, which, incidentally, are floating affairs in the middle of pools strewn with rose petals. Sounds like bliss? More of a nightmare, I would suspect, for the bloke who has to pay for all of this. What if he is a broke sort of fellow and has landed himself the most exciting woman on the planet? Would he dare take her to Vaishali to eat SBDP? I think not. Unless, of course, he has a death wish.
But it is no cake walk for the girl either. Over the last 3 weeks or so I have seen dozens of girls with anxiety-ridden faces, walk in and out of shops, phones stuck on their ears, discussing with their bffs the right sartorial choice for date night on Valentine’s. Depending on the state of the wallet or their parent’s, as the case might be, they are to be found either at malls housing expensive brands or on the shops on MG road. Not to be outdone by their fancier counterparts, street- side vendors too have jumped into the fray the last few years, making brisks sales with their ‘Sara’, ‘Very Moda’ and ‘Forver Twenty’ high-fashion rip offs. On an aside, I am mystified why women have to wear those Santa Claus-like Red outfits to declare their love. Ever heard Santa say anything other than HO HO HO?
Love was an altogether different ball-game when I was growing up in suburban Mumbai. Then, love was all about sneaked glances when we hung out in different groups of boys and girls; love was a scribbled note passed on by the pimply fellow you thought yourself to be in love with and love was heart break upon discovering that the note he passed on to you was actually meant to be handed over to your good-looking sister! Love was waiting for a letter to arrive from someone you loved who had gone off to a far off country in search of a better life. Love was the first cake that you ever got from your husband and even if that cake happened to be a shiny, pista- coloured one with fluorescent pink and white frosting on it and was purchased from a bakery named Asha’s Freshies (!!!!) you still relished it because you loved the guy who made that effort for you. Love was cards bought for Rs. 5 and had all sorts of silly, sentimental stuff written in it which exactly reflected your feelings for your guy.
This new age love is a hard thing to do and I feel bad for the girls in particular. The other day I was at the salon and there was this pretty young thing sitting there, chewing her nails to the bones and telling the salon owner her story. Turns out her love interest did not like her with any hair on her body at all and wanted her to permanently get rid of body hair. “I am not sure I want to do laser treatment. Besides, I don’t have the 30 grand that it takes to do it,” she said, wringing her hands in anguish. Also, he likes me really thin and we have these big rows when we go out on a date and I want to eat something interesting. He says it makes me fat.”
I have a 25-year-old daughter and my blood boiled upon hearing the said story. What the boy deserves is the boot and what this girl needs is someone to help her get her self-worth back. I tried sending the message out into the universe from my salon chair to hers that no man is worth that much compromise on your dignity but somehow, I don’t think it reached her. By the time she left the salon that evening, she had waxed herself within a centimetre of her bony body and had gotten herself all blow-dried and groomed in time for their evening date.
I don’t know what it is with Valentine’s Day and the days preceding it but something in the air makes me feel a bit weird. The other day I was in one of MG Road’s oldest shopping centres, looking to buy myself a phone cover.. I rued the moment I decided to go there because as soon as I stepped in I was pounced upon by various seedy, decidedly oily men who sit in some of shops selling panties, bras and such other things. “Madam Valentine ke liya Thailand ka lingerie (pronounced LINGER ee) aa hai. Kya dikhaaoon aapko. Matching red set bhi hai, XXL size mein.”
I look up and reel back at the sight of a whip- wielding, blonde mannequin in a the aforementioned red set, two pairs of feathers jutting from each breast and diamonds twinkling all over. Victoria might have had her secrets but here, on MG road, there are no secrets. And no boundaries on the imagination. Hassled Harry who was following me a few metres away, tittered in amusement. “Would you like a few feather-lined somethings ,” I enquire. “Certainly not. I don’t know who told you that gentlemen prefer blondes. Or feathers. Feathers are for hens,” he said. So much for mapping the male fantasy.
In our household, we have even given up the pretence of celebrating Valentines. The only carats I get are the ones that can be bought from the vegetable vendor and made into a salad. Or blitzed into a soup.
Today is Valentines and even as everyone between the ages of 16-35 wait to be seated at expensive restaurants , nervously looking over their shoulders for any possible attack by the moral brigade, I will dim the lights and bring out some chilled grapes. And we will slowly pop them into our mouths watching Karan Johar on national television, hinting about the various things that he insists he does between the sheets. What, I don’t know. With who, I don’t care. I am happy to watch telly simply because it is a cheap and cheerful option for those over the hill and not wanting the trouble of dressing up in feathers or whatever. Happy Valentine’s Day and God Help You !
You can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org or her twitter handle@sudhamenon2006
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