I have been there – and done that too. I have sat around with the worldly-wise and the intellectual, shaken my head and denounced the fuss the common mortal makes of Valentine’s Day. And Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Teacher’s Day…all the imaginable days. Oh, it’s just another day – what’s the big deal, you tell me. I have spoken at length about the commercialisation behind all these ‘days’ and how we are moving closer and closer towards a more materialistic world, and so on and so forth. I have also vehemently agreed with all those conspiracy theorists who state that this is all a part of scheme by the MNCs to sell their products on a massive scale. Absolutely. All those cards and chocolate and roses – they get sold by the million. Not to mention gold and diamond. We are the fools. Those MNCs, they laugh all the way to the bank…
Then, one day, I turned 40. And no one realised it. I turned 40, and it was just another day for the rest of the world! It hit me hard – in places I’d not expected it to. It was not just Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day for God’s sake. It was my birthday! I don’t know what I had expected – trumpets and fanfare? A huge cake with the face of Meryl Streep and 40 candles on it? I ‘m not sure. I did expect some fuss, though.
When I didn’t get it, I made it. Fuss, I mean. I made life pretty difficult for the people around me, and finally my puffy old face and I were taken to an ethnic Rajastani restaurant and there in the subdued light, we tried to salvage what was left of the day. But for once, I admitted that I was disappointed – and hurt. I could have used some cards and brightly wrapped gifts… My next birthday was remembered, but not the one after that. It’s extreme to expect people to remember anything for beyond a year, I guess.
Growing older has one advantage – it strips away the need to pretend to oneself, to hide from oneself. I no longer feel the need to be intellectual or worldly-wise. I’m beginning to think that it is ok for the MNCs to have the last laugh occasionally. I’m even willing to admit that the twinge that I had felt that day when I saw the huge bouquet that a colleague’s fiancé had sent her was not of pity, but was green and had horns.
It’s Valentine’s Day today. My first Valentine is thirteen-year-old Akhila, and second, twelve-year-old Abigail who shyly produces a velvety red rose with some little white flowers. I feel so loved. The talk in the staffroom turns to the celebrations that will or will not be happening today. A few of my younger colleagues talk vehemently about commercialisation, consumerism and how it’s just another day, after all.
I look at a friend and admit sheepishly, I wouldn’t mind some roses and chocolate, though. She nods, and equally sheepishly admits – Yeah, true. I wouldn’t, either.
We pick up our books and head towards our respective classes.