It’s Valentine week!” Leela, my best friend exclaimed.
“Did she dedicate an entire week to love?” I thought to myself. It was a misty wintry morning and I was being my usual sarcastic self, insulting her desperate need to buy the “perfect” gift for her boyfriend. In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever truly gotten around to appreciating this day.

“Can it get any worse?” I questioned myself relentlessly like I do every year. Every year, a beautiful wintry month like February is ruined by a single day – Valentine’s Day! I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I hear endearing terms my best friend uses to call her boyfriend. Nonetheless, I do a pretty good job at pretending like I’m not disgusted by PDA. Only I know how much I loathe cheesy gestures, mushy text messages and love, in its entirety.

Yesterday, Leela asked me if I was free to help her with the customary gift-buying for her boyfriend.

“Leela, V-day gifts are bought by a bunch of unimaginative and consumerism-oriented people”, I told my friend, in an attempt to convince her to maybe…make a card instead?
“Naina, will you please keep your judgment to yourself! Just because you can’t find a decent man for yourself doesn’t mean you can rub off your opinion on others all the time”, Leela shouted back at me. I wasn’t surprised. After all, I am judgmental and I don’t mind being disliked for it. But did she really think I couldn’t get a man for myself? My ego was a little bruised but I couldn’t care less.

“6 billion people in this world and we still like to believe in “The One””, I told Leela.
“You are just never accepting of the idea of dates, of two people interacting with each other to get closer, of two people doing everything to please the other”, Leela lashed back at me.
No, I wasn’t bitter, I wasn’t lonely. I despised V-day, solely for the fact that it seemed so pretentious, so forced, so mandatory. What made it worse was all the pressure the consumerist society put on lovers! All the heart-shaped balloons, the red roses, the notion of gifting the significant other, the need to make it grand – it all seemed too phony. And my own friend was falling prey to this!

The next day, I heard a knock on my door. It was Leela, all set to go get the perfect present for her man.

“I cannot contain this excitement”, she jumped around like a little baby. Seeing her hyper made me giggle a bit. I am not particularly good with details but from what I can recall, she got a very expensive watch for him, ordered a cake and planned to buy fresh flowers from the florists the next morning. She’d already spent over Rs. 6,000. It was a little unusual. For someone our age to spend so much just to please the significant other seemed a little over-the-top and unnecessary. I planned to shut my mouth, though.

It was Valentine’s Day - 14th of February was here and I was least bothered. I was glad I was going to stay under my covers all day long reading a Stephen Hawking book. What made this mundane day exciting for me was Leela’s call. Late at night, she called me and what she said only reaffirmed my cynicism for V-day.

“Naina, you know what? He didn’t gift me anything. All he did was take me to a Dhaba and gave me a 6 page letter expressing his love for me. I spent over 10k for him and all I got was a mindless 6 page letter that I have no interest reading”.

There you have it, my readers. The notion of love gloomed so terribly by money, by the need to make it seem big, grand, “epic”, if I may call it. No appreciation for minimalist expressions of love, whatsoever. This is what it has come to.

“You would rather have him gift you something expensive than express his feelings? Happy Valentine’s Day, dear friend” I said. And I hung up the phone.
“How non-appreciative of the idea of love and they call me a cynic. If this is what makes me a cynic, I’m proud to be one”, I said to myself.