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Valentine's Day is a menace!
S B |
February 14, 2006
There is a 'take your pet to work' day, there is a hamburger day, and there is even a 'look up at the sky' day. I happen to know these because my first job - in the very early days of Internet in India -- was as a copywriter for an online greeting card site.
It taught me a lot of things -- that the computer was not such a scary thing after all; that flitting through college expanding your mind and dreaming of being a musician are seriously injurious to your mental health; that you are a beggar when you go out into the job market with an okay-ish comfort level with the English language as your only 'skill set'; and that it pays to write things like 'I can't bear to be without you' with an animated bear doing the rumba for accompaniment.
So, after giving my reason for living a not-so-quiet burial, I joined the mush factory. The owner, a very nice guy, gave me a salary hike even before I got my fist paycheque. And he made me start writing a newsletter every week for the site, which masqueraded as an American company. It was run out of a three-bedroom house in Kolkata. I knew what it is to be a BPO employee even before I knew what BPO meant.
So I, all of 22, assumed a white name, got myself an imaginary dog (I called him King Kong), a nephew 'inspired' by Dennis the Menace, and started churning out stories. Most of them were real life ones tweaked to the right degree of Americanism.
Like one about Valentine's Day and how I didn't know anything about it till an 'imported' schoolmate (he was from Venezuela, as American as it could get in the pre-Internet days) explained it to me. And how I was nearly kicked out of school because of that friend's overzealous attempts to make a girl -- whom I had the mother of all crushes on -- my 'Valentine'.
I was told those almost-spam mails were a hit. That turned me forever off anything to do with poor St Valentine.
Next, it turned me off from poems. It took years and a very drunk journalist reciting Neruda to rescue me the from the trauma of the 'poetry' I was made to write for greeting cards -- three or four every day.
That is why I am firmly of the opinion that Valentine's Day is a menace.
Not because I think that behaving like the Sentinelese of the Andamans -- who kill anyone from the world outside their island -- is the way to preserve our culture. Not because I think that out-of-work goons should be given a day to bash up young people to protect us from videshi ills.
But because I think Valentine's Day is a travesty of everything love is about. It reduces expression to a greeting card, intimacy to a dinner and love to a get-it-while-you-can contest.
Image by Rajesh Karkera