Thursday, February 14, 2008

Long Live Valentine!

What a day it was today! Though I spent the day in the usual way of fire fighting the trivial issues of office and home , romantics around the world are celebrating Valentine's Day, an occasion named after a Christian patron saint for lovers. Today was the red and white day when Cupid's arrow will dart towards the pockets of many who are looking for ways to purchase gifts or provide special experiences for their loved ones. This evening I was browsing through the news related to the excitement and concerns this day is raising worldwide and was amazed to find the variety of reactions. If you ask me , I think when it comes to Valentine's Day, there are two types of people: those who love it, and those who love to hate it. I am sure shops and hospitality industry loves it much more than the lovers’ themselves as for them it means a sudden boom in revenue. The commercial sector specializing in chocolate, wine and roses see a dramatic rise on the purchase charts. So it is for the mobile companies as with the mobile phone revolution in our country, lovers are using the hi-tech mode to express their love and the telecom companies are reaping the profits. This year's Valentine's Day was the busiest text messaging day ever, according to industry experts. VeriSign predicted that 2.2 billion text messages will be sent in North America alone, representing a 40 per cent increase over normal daily traffic and a 300 per cent increase over Valentine's Day in 2007. However, for agencies, activists and businessmen Valentine's Day is no longer confined to just roses, chocolates , messages and cards. In the Arizona Republic for example Valentine's Day is a big day for divorce. On average, 19 more divorces are filed on February 14 than on any other business day in the County Superior Court, according to an analysis of divorce filings over the last decade. Ironic isn’t it ? Can you guess why it is so? For some it is the disappointment of not having the V-day as expected for others it is a statement of poetic revenge- or so believes the local social analysts . Hence while hot and heavy couples are exchanging little blue boxes and designer ties over romantic dinners today, other couples are celebrating in another was-- Divorce. Moving on to the Africa , where though Kenya's post-election reconciliation talks have not yet come up roses, the nation's crucial flower industry is blooming for Valentine's Day. The annual festival of romance is a key pay-day for Kenya's flower producers, who sell more flowers on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day than during the rest of the year combined. Most are exported to Europe of course .
The fellow traders in Israel are not that lucky . For Palestinian flower growers in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, it was a holiday of love's labour's lost. Unable to ship their blooms to Europe for Valentine's Day because of Israeli export restrictions, they dumped two truckloads of flowers at the Sufa border crossing with the Jewish state on Thursday and fed some of the crop to sheep. And nearer home, at another border of dispute, it was an altogether opposite reaction. A rubber tube decorated with flowers and messages of love was set afloat on river Chenab for people in Pakistan on Valentine's Day by members of a political party in Akhnoor , a Jammu and Kashmir border town . In a south Asian country the health ministry is on its toes in distributing condoms as their survey shows that every third teenager will celebrate V-day by having unprotected sex.
Things are dramatically different in the northern towns of India where Hindu hard-liners are showing no love for Valentine's Day. A few dozen protesters blocked a road in New Delhi on Wednesday, burning Valentine's Day cards and chanting "Down with Valentine." In my own city Lucknow, extremists threatened to beat up couples found celebrating their love. I find it sad. Though I am neutral towards this day and the hype about it, I feel that Indian culture and values are not that fragile as these fanatics would like to believe. Their reaction is one of ignorance about their own tradition and culture.
And yet another reaction of the day for emailers --the Valentine's Day campaign that the bot-building Storm Trojan horse has been running for weeks is running at such volume that even the FBI had to issue a warning The Storm Worm virus has capitalized on various holidays in the last year by sending millions of e-mails advertising an e-card link within the text of the spam e-mail. Valentine's Day was identified as the next target.
Reminds you of the HSBC ad line : No two people have similar reactions in this world .
I really don’t know how real is all this hype and hullabaloo about the day . Some say it is the market that is driving the people for these celebrations and some believe it the other way round. Now, who is driving who is again a debatable point? Reminds me of the story of Winter prediction of red Indians which my boss told us in one of the meetings recently . The story goes like this that the red Indians by virtue of their traditional knowledge could predict how severe the next winter will be with much accuracy. The custom was that much before the beginning of winter, the group will go to their chief asking how the next winter is going to be and the chief will smell the leaves, check the moist of earth and feel the water before giving his verdict. But one year, the old chief died and his American University educated son took over . This new chief thanks to his superior education has lost the skill of predicting weather the Red Indian way. So when the tribe came for his verdict in August he called the local Met office and asked them. They replied it will be severe winter and the new chief repeated the words to his tribe and advised them to collect wood . People again came in September and October and both times the chief on Met office’s advice predicted ‘very severe winter’ and asked them to collect all the wood they can cut . Now it was November and winter was not at all severe. So the chief again called Met office and asked if they are sure it will be a harsh winter. They replied “ Of course sir, Just go to the wood and you will find even the red Indians have cut down the forest to collect wood. Take my word sir, these people are never wrong about the weather .”
But what the heck, for most of us was just a day like all others ….full of an exotic mix of happiness and excitement, disappointment and loneliness, work and leisure .One cannot however, help feeling bit envious of the lucky ones who have time for V-day celebrations .And let’s be honest, its always nice to see people in love, people who celebrate their relationships, people who dare to show that they care ….and nice to watch lovey dovey movies on TV too .So in a limited way, I am also joining the bandwagon and am watching Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle saying –“Winter must be cold for those who have no warm memories.” Long live Valentine !

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