Valentine’s Day – myth or reality?

SONGSOPTOK: Valentine’s Day has become one of the major festivals these days, comparable to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Diwali, Id, Rosh Hashanah or Chanukah and observed by men and women irrespective of religion. Do you agree? How important is it in the country you live in??

FAIYAZ: Yes Valentine Day has become a very popular ‘event’ these days. I will not call it a festival because all festivals have a religious connection and Valentine’s Day though named after a Christian saint has no religious connotation. It is religion neutral, the love Jehadis notwithstanding.  In India it is primarily an urban phenomenon that has caught the fancy of young men and women thanks to media penetration and commercial exploitation.

SONGSOPTOK: There are several different views about the history and origin of Valentine’s Day. Which is the version you know about?

FAIYAZ: In the age of Wikipedia, you can learn about all the different versions in a few minutes of patient reading. So while I am aware of quite a few different versions about its origin I have no favourite version. What I find interesting is that Valentine’s Day became a symbol of romantic love only during the 14th. Century when it was popularized by Chaucer and while Chaucer is now remembered only by students of English literature, the feast has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon thanks to the lords of lucre. It follows that economic support is as important to literature as it is to life.

SONGSOPTOK: Why do you think Valentine’s Day has become so important all over the world irrespective of the political, social and religious dimensions? Do you think that the anxiety and stress related to modern day relationships have contributed to its growing popularity all over the world?

FAIYAZ: If anxiety and stress can lead to a celebration of romantic love, then I am all for anxiety and stress. One reason for the immense popularity of Valentine’s Day, especially in Asian countries, is because it allows people to be open about a matter which so far was kept under wraps and hence it is also a mild form of rebellion against social norms. 

SONGSOPTOK: Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? In what way? If you don’t, will you please explain why not?

FAIYAZ: Yes, I do celebrate Valentine’s Day but not on the 14th. of February. For me, love is not a date in the calendar but an emotion that is all embracing and perennial.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you feel obliged to do something special for your spouse/partner on Valentine’s Day or it is similar to and as natural as celebrating birthdays and anniversaries? In other words, is there any peer pressure to conform to the traditions associated with the modern version of Valentine’s Day?

FAIYAZ: Once you start feeling obliged to do something special for your partner due to peer pressure, then it’s time to review your relationship! The moment expression of love becomes an obligation it ceases to be love and becomes an empty ritual. People who conform to tradition due to peer pressure clearly do not understand the basic essence of the tradition which they claim to conform to.  

SONGSOPTOK: According to you what, if anything, is special about Valentine’s Day? Does it play an important role in romantic relationships? Why? Is it important for you to surprise your partner on Valentine’s Day? What would be your preferred way?

FAIYAZ: I don’t think there is any special day to express your love for anyone for whom you may have a deep emotional attachment. A modern couple brought up under the Hollywood/Bollywood notion of love might consider it a sacrilege to let Valentine’s Day pass without doing something ‘special’ for their beloved but that has nothing to do with the deeper meaning of romantic love.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you buy gifts on Valentine’s Day? What type of gifts do you normally buy? Do you think it is important to follow the norm and go for the traditional gifts like flowers, chocolates, cards, perfumes etc.? Please share your motivations or lack of them with us?

FAIYAZ: I don’t recollect ever buying any gift on Valentine’s Day because every day spent in the company of your beloved is special and following any silly norm for the sake of some silly newspaper advertisement has never been my strong point.

SONGSOPTOK: Marketing Gurus often dub Hallmark as the official sponsor of Valentine’s Day in the USA. Do you have any equivalent in your own country? Do big consumer good companies carry out an aggressive promotion campaign for Valentine’s Day? What are their preferred channels? Do social media play an important role in this respect in your country of residence?

FAIYAZ: In the age of globalization, most marketing strategies are just too ubiquitous and bland.

SONGSOPTOK: What are the popular customs related to Valentine’s Day in the country you live in? What do you think about them? Do you think that men and women actually enjoy and look forward to 14th February or is it just a matter of keeping up with the Jones’??

FAIYAZ: I am not sure if there are any ‘customs’ associated with Valentine’s Day unless you include the exchange of gifts, shared time etc. as customs peculiar to Valentine’s Day. Personally, I would be horrified if it were true that modern lovers actually follow a ‘custom’ when it comes to romance.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that there is actually a social stigma for single, unattached people who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you think that the Valentine Day extravaganza may have a negative impact on their psyche, moral and ultimately their well-beings? What is your own experiences? Would you please share it with us?

FAIYAZ: In the modern world where not to conform is itself a stigma, and your popularity is judged by the number of likes to your FB photos, I will not be in the least surprised if people go into severe depression just because they have no one to say, ‘I love you’ on Valentine’s Day. Mind you, I am not belittling the value of love here but just the modern outward manifestation of love as practiced today.

FAIYAZ AHMED: I am an economist by training and a banker by profession. I have always believed in the philosophy of creative idleness, hence I took ‘retirement’ at an age when all my friends and colleagues had their nose to the grindstone. When I was younger I believed in the principle of life, liberty and happiness of pursuit. Now, older and hopefully wiser, I try to lead a life that is inspired by love and guided by knowledge.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope to have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen



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