Today is valentine’s day.
A year ago was a valetine’s day, too, my first night in D.C. Walking a foreign city buried in more than two feet of suffocating snow. On a desperate prowl, if only for a place -- any place -- to eat in a big corner of the city that shuts down after business hours. It wasn’t hard to feel lonely, the day before I was schedule to meet a hundred new best friends. A finally found a bottom-floor gyro shop. I sat by the window, but almost couldn’t see over the snowbanks. Even after I made a slew of good friends in the months that followed, I never went back to that restaurant.
But if the holiday can be a bit touchy in the American heart, it can be downright charged here in India.
Ten or twelve years ago, it was valetine’s day, too. Hindu nationalist agitators used the holiday as a symbol of the worst of Globalization. Westernization. Commercialization. Consumerization. Romanticization. Not-our-way-of-live-ization, they argued, except not with words, but with stones through storefronts. Reading about the valentine’s day turmoil in India in the 1990s is one of my first memories of studying India.
But today in India, a different valentine’s day.
In me, not the restlessness of a year before. Contentment wouldn’t be quite the right word, but a form of calm acceptance. Situational asceticism, I suppose. Not a single card exchanged (lest we consider the banter of a few e-cards). Not ideal, if you would ever be silly enough to ask me my opinion on the matter, but just another part of a longer journey.
And in India, a fully modern valentine’s day. Lovers planning their Bryan Adams concert. Chocolates in a land that doesn’t have much need for chocolate. And in the mall across the street, discovered on the hunt for another valentine’s day supper, a crowd. This valentine’s day mob, though, happy not angry. Youngsters dancing atop a heart-shaped platform, striving for the title of Mr. and Mrs. Valentine.
Still plenty of valentine’s day angst here in India, ten years later. Teenage angst.