Valentine’s Day has to be seen in the background of globalisation, which is taking a beating since Donald Trump took charge in the USA. Globalization has seen to the commercialisation of love. Selling symbols of love is big market – and a once in a year opportunity on Valentine’s Day. On the eve of V-Day, even the so-thought “regressive” Uttar Pradesh government has seen that opportunity, and sprung to the bait. It has hiked the price for couples to take a romantic picture with the Taj Mahal!

And people who wear hearts on their sleeves are buying roses to repent for not marrying sweethearts for 20 years but suddenly one Valentine’s Day get down on their knees. Sin City Las Vegas has been making hay selling marriage licences these past few days.

Growing up in India, many born before the millennial years did not need a V-Day to express love, get tied. It was so much more peaceful. The flirting was year-round and there was no particular day to date. Dating itself was alien, and still is. The British, who ruled India for a couple of centuries, if they dated, did not pass the date custom on to moribund Indians wedded to age-old traditions.

It took more than 50 years after Independence for V-Day to be recognised, celebrated. And ‘Jab We Met’, if you could call that dating, was at arranged meetings to take the first step to solemnise arranged marriages – not ‘love marriage’. If it was love that united couples, then a packed bag and money to buy two train tickets to flee the city/town were to be kept ready, aside. You could get your throat slit on a busy road if you did not plan the elopement meticulously, down to the last minute, as one couple in Delhi did not in Delhi recently.

Yep, it is that time of the year again, say connoisseurs of Valentine’s Day. Time for “humiliation and harassment” to those who commit the “crime” of dating. The young of India will “risk head shavings, face blackening, public thrashings and forcibly solemnised marriages”, warn these authors of Valentine’s Day, those who place dating at the core of the Indian heart, as if dating is baked into the Indian psyche and culture.

Ask an average Indian Joe or Jane, what is dating and he/she will fumble for an answer. Most would say going to a park or a pub with a ‘lover’ is dating. There is no equivalent word for dating in any Indian language. The Urban dictionary defines dating as “where two people who are attracted to each other spend time together to see if they also can stand to be around each other most of the time”. Significantly, “cheating” is a corollary to “dating” if a person or both the persons dating are also dating others to find “stand to be around”.

“A guy I met at the mall asked me out, he seemed to really like my personality! I hope it goes well and we start dating.” That should set the record straight. Dating is strictly personal, binary-personal. It involves the feelings of two persons who are on a discovery of each other.

The problem is Valentine’s Day has been turned into a day for mass dating by Indians. For thousands of young people it has become an imperative to be together on Valentine’s Day. To not have a “My Valentine” on V-Day has become a curse. Those left to say only “His Valentine” and “Her Valentine” feel left out. It is like “only couples allowed – no stags” on the dance floor. That sets the stage for confrontation between those with a Valentine to dance with and those without one.

Card shops, parks, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls will not let go a Valentine’s Day. On February 14 another day of turmoil awaits India. Valentine’s Day has been foisted on a people still to get an idea of what the West is, apart from direction on a compass. Like somebody said “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”. Was it Mark Twain? Nope. It was Rudyard Kipling, who was resident in India for donkey’s years and knew what he was talking about. (IPA Service)