The Unromantic Day

Valentine’s Day negates, fetishes and distorts romance. It needs romantic dissection. Not moral policing.

I have never been in a romantic relationship. You can blame it on my lack of charm, bad luck, introvert nature or sheer absurdity. But I do have ideas on what romance is, and more importantly – what it is not. Romantic poetry and songs, abstract romantic imageries and the silence of unexpressed feelings can stir me and can find moisture in my eyes. Valentine’s Day says – I can’t have any of these.

Valentine’s Day is premised on some technicalities. It has some concrete eligibility conditions for celebrating romantic love, which is abstract in its essence. The day puts some specific conditions of presence  – a meeting of two, an expression of emotion, some exchange (euphemistically called gifts), flowers for the occasionally nature loving beloved, some eating, and other intentions add to the physicality of the day.

The premium is on spoken word, overt gestures and the concrete architecture of monolithic romance.

Plato turn in your grave, the Heart has a concrete image. It’s a pink balloon.

Valentine’s Day is an annual episode in one-dimensional narrative of romance. It negates and disdains love as an idea, a constant potentiality, a sentiment always moving towards realization, perpetual yearning for that abstract and elusive ideal fulfillment, the pleasant illusion. Plato, turn in your grave. Concrete images of the dating spectacle have thrown out the idea of romance. And to think of Platonic love? Plato, listen, you are Greek  (literally and figuratively) to the script.  Almost an anachronism. The day has got a physical emblem – a heart- shaped pink balloon. Did the death of romantic imagination need more evidence?

With romance fetishized and emotion concretized, can the markets be left behind? How can you miss merchandise?

No, the market can’t be left behind and they are not. Sharks are sharp, a killing has to be made and the catch is soft – the emotional sector. So the players smell a date with profits and pink bubble type operators flood the Valentine’s market. Mushily worded cards (for lingually challenged lovers), cozy corners in eateries, expensive gifts, the event merchandise (dating mementos) and other fetishes of consumerist romance are becoming a substantial market in metropolitan and small town India. In an age that celebrates aggressive marketing, anything that is concrete has to be a market, anything that is tangible has to be commodified (fetishes are big business).

Reticent India is an attractive investment destination for the romantic expression industry.  And it’s not missing out. The grammar of romantic courtship has made adjustment for the syntax of dating. The Valentine’s Day market is the annual beneficiary of a sector, which pays daily dividends to telecom companies, eateries, the digital market and gifts market. Expression is no longer the romance sector’s only USP. Youth in urban spaces are getting aggressively expressive with feelings even at the cost of murdering language and so Valentine’s merchandise has also changed over years. The theme fad seems the in thing now. Fetish turning into romantic hegemony – the common expression mode exported to all. The Concrete World. Planet Love.

An increasingly noisy world has run out of patience for nuanced whispering of romantic feelings and has nothing but contempt for the delicate silence of unspoken love. Valentine’s Day celebrates the cacophony of shouting about love. It has no place for the invisible warmth of a glow tucked in the corner of a heart. It has eyes and ears for the visible and the spoken.  Such overt outlets of feelings are vulnerable to fetish consumerism and market commodification. Any narrative of romance that is not rooted in the abstract, unsaid and the unseen has to be antithesis of romantic love. Such an unromantic day.


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  • Ruchika Chawla

    Brilliant Anand, great to read you. It’s incisively insightful.