I was on way to Panjim. I got into the bus and settled myself in. There was a steady flow of people coming in. Soon the bus was full except for the seat next to me. A lady entered the bus, carrying a baby in one hand and a heavy bag in another. Shabby clothes, disheveled hair - she appeared to belong to the laborer class. She was followed by her husband. I smiled at her and shifted in my seat to make place for her to sit. She smiled back, but she didn’t sit, instead she asked her husband to take the seat. My immediate reaction was that of anger and contempt for her husband who I thought was shameless to take the seat while his wife stood there carrying the baby and the bag. I gave the man a scornful look who seemed to be too absorbed in settling himself in the seat. I turned to his wife and indicated her to take my seat. She politely refused.

Immediately after he had seated himself properly, he asked his wife to let him have the baby. His wife kept on insisting on holding the baby herself. After his continuous requests, she reluctantly handed him the baby. Now I was infuriated at that lady, the typical Indian wife – going to extremes to please her husband, always assuming a subordinate position and inadvertently letting her husband to completely control her life. While my mind was churning out thoughts about the plight of such women, I observed that the man was now asking her to give him the bag. After much persuasion, she handled him the bag. The man bent down to place the bag next to his feet.

Instinctively I turned to watch him and what I saw put me to shame. Shame for being so thoughtless, for making instantaneous and outright wrong judgments and for my disdainful behavior towards the man.

The man had a deep wound on his right ankle. Blood had coagulated all around that wound. There was no antiseptic applied nor was it bandaged. The skin around the wound was badly bruised too. He noticed that was I was observing, so he tried to cover his wound with his dhoti and then as he was adjusting his bag to block it from my sight, the driver applied brakes and he mistakenly hurt his wound. He groaned in pain, his wife instantly bent down to help him. The calm expression on her face was quickly replaced by anxiety. She didn’t panic, but she wasn’t exactly unruffled too. She seemed to be in as much pain as him, if not more.
I was so moved by the entire incident. Both of them had so much love and affection for each other. They were genuinely worried about the other. I was so moved that I continued staring although I was aware of how discourteous it is to stare at people. The saree she was wearing was crumpled and had stitches all over it. Her dry and dehydrated skin spelled the effects of the scorching sun she slogged under. Her craggy, wrinkled face spoke about the adversities she had to face. Her teary eyes showed how sincerely she cared for her husband. In spite of her distressing plight, she had a certain aura about her.

Today, as I sit reflecting on Valentines Day and about love, theirs is the only picture that comes to my mind over and over again.

I feel a certain lump rising up in my throat. I’m not choked up on sentimentality; I’m choked up on bile. Today the concept of Love has become as distorted as the concept of Valentines Day. Valentine’s Day epitomizes the blatant consumerism of modern love. These days the pursuit and display of love has become far too materialistic and corporate, and the worst thing about it is people don’t seem to care.

The “Hallmark” version of Valentines Day just seems so in your face as an exploited version of true love to sell cards and other red/pink items. We have become so materialistic that we have missed the focal point of the Valentines Day. Nowadays Valentine's Day requires that everyone immerse their significant other with love and then go back to everyday life, as if this immersion were a special treat. Every year millions of people gift cards and roses Valentine’s Day each allegedly symbolizing love for another through the purchase of merchandise. No one cares about the thoughts, emotions and efforts behind the gift, all that matters is the price tag. Taking over the love for others is the love for objects. Inanimate things that seem more reliable than the people who control them! The human heart is the most beautiful gift a person can offer to another yet this gift is often taken for granted and unappreciated.

If you love someone, why wait for this one day to show it to your loved one. If you really love someone, everyday is Valentine’s Day. It shouldn’t have to be about a material gesture. People will go out and spend money on something that they hope will send a message to someone they care about. Wouldn't it be easier to just tell someone you love them instead of spending money? Why don’t we try and return to the heart of Valentine’s Day: the celebration of the individual love of two people through the things that are special in their relationship. A simple “I love you” is worth more than anything anyone could ever make or sell.

Speaking of love, how many really mean it when they say I love you?
It’s a phrase thrown around too often with very little sincerity involved, in fact it’s about as common to hear as a “What’s Up” or a “How are you doing” it’s told to the other person in the relationship more so as a common courtesy than with sincerity. The phrase has totally lost its intended meaning.

Falling in and out of love has become the order of the day. You date someone for few days, after the initial excitement gets over, boredom creeps in and one person in the relationship dumps the other. The one who dumps (the one superior in some respect like money, looks) brags about it and “moves on” to date someone else. The one dumped – well, he goes to the McDonalds to celebrate his single status. Har choti Khushi Ka celebration jo karna hai !

Change is good. Change your phone, your computer, your car. People in their 20s that used to get married and settle down now spend money on clothes, gadgets and booze. They change their partners, avoid commitment, and act like teenagers well into their 30s and beyond.

In the current world “Love” and “Being in Love” are two different things. People love each other but they aren’t “in love” with each other. In other words people love what the other person in the relationship is offering them on a materialistic level. They love them for either the money, social status, sex or gifts that the other person in a relationship gives them. Love is no longer about morals it’s about what the other person can offer. Love is no longer about compassion, understanding and the ability to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own.

If love is all this, then all I can say is "Blessed are those who are poor".

PS: Happy Valentine's Day to all. May you all celebrate the love and not the day.

PPS: My blog turns One today. The procrastinator I am - have been anything but regular with my blog posts. But I hope to change that, i have resolved to make at least one post per week.

PPPS: The Title of this post is inspired from one of my favorite poems. Image Credit - It's from NatGeo's compilations of best photos of 2009.