Posted in Love

Matters of Heart: Act 4

When I was in the third year of Bachelor’s degree, a friend who was a cousin of my neighbours called on the home phone on Valentine’s day and asked me to meet him. We had been living in the house for a couple of years. Several cousins of these neighbours were the same age as me. They lived in another city and would often visit and inform me as soon as they reached, demanding my instant presence. I always obliged.

Since it was an old practice, his demand of my instant presence made perfect sense to me, except it was Valentine’s day, so I declined. He insisted, “I’m here only for a couple of days.” I declined again. It was difficult to talk without raising suspicion anyway. Then, he asked his cousin, my neighbour who is a girl, to call again and insist. With a weary heart, I declined yet again, giving excuse of urgent college work, promising to come the next afternoon.

Let me set the context here.

Valentine’s day (14th Feb) is celebrated in India as the day of lovers. But when I was young, most lovers celebrated it on 15th Feb since 14th Feb was unofficially the Daughter Grounding Day for 90% teenage girls from Indian middle-class. The grounding is almost invisible, heavily veiled by well-meaning parents intending to keep their daughters safe from the wolves roaming on the streets on Valentine’s day with bouquets in one hand and chocolates in the other, ready to jump their ‘innocent’ red-riding hood.

If it isn’t exams, most parents persuade their daughters to take the day off schools and colleges. Some leave direct orders, “The fridge needs cleaning and the nuts need to be cracked. Once done, make some potato chips. If there is still time make potato paapad, rice paapad…yadaa yadaa yadda.” Others cajole girls, offering supervised trips to market, over-the-top lunches, picnics in the fine spring weather or a day off to due to such a cold/hot weather. If nothing else, pre-decided emergencies come in: a visit to doctor, dentist, a really old and forgotten relative….

If going out is imperative, the girl gets a guard of honour to and from the venue, and if possible, inside the venue as well. The guard of honour is often an unenthusiastic brother who would rather be out hunting his own girl rather than be stuck with his sister. If a trip to market is in order, an overenthusiastic mother would accompany the girl, get her to finish her business quickly so that they can go dress shopping and get back home together. If nothing else, the father would take the day off work, suddenly anxious to spend more time with his precious cutie-pie.

Boys are, of course, uninformed of this grounding day and spend the day unsuccessfully waiting outside girls college until the flowers wilt and chocolates are eaten.

Some of my classmates were deluded enough to throw Valentine’s day party with red colour as a dress code. They usually celebrated with only boys for company. I remember about a bunch of girls who were able to hoodwink their parents on Valentine’s day by leaving home in school uniform to meet their lovers in a restaurant. Someone noticed their school uniform, which proved they were underage (In India, schooling ends at around 17-18.), and reported them to Police. The Police caught them and, worse, handed over to their parents. The boys were booked for ‘enticing minor girls’ and, even worse, returned to their parents.

Once, one of my practical exams did fall on 14th Feb. I used to walk to school then. After my own exam ended, I stayed back to help a friend in her Home Science practical. After an hour, I walked out of school and found my father waiting for me since he ‘had some chores in the same direction’. Hence, I always kept clear of Valentine’s day invites. Since I never had a boyfriend until then, I didn’t feel the need to give my parents extra exercise.

Honestly, it was difficult even to answer the home phone (mobile phones were a rarity then) on that day without prying ears. One of my friends had birthday on 14th Feb. I never attended his birthday party. Whenever I mentioned calling him to wish him, my parents would agree but they looked rather incredulous, as if no child would ever think of being born on such a day, and I had a suspicion, or may be I was being paranoid, that I was being eavesdropped.

In the wake of these past experiences, when this neighbours’ cousin asked me to come over on Valentine’s day, I declined with the excuse of college work. I didn’t want to embarrass this really nice and genuine friend by bringing my father along who would invariably tag along on the pretext of going on a walk or visiting his family.

The next afternoon, when I went to meet him, he was rather upset at the supposed insult and I had my work cut out for me trying to make him talk to me, since I didn’t want to divulge the real reason. Why not tell him? Because there are some secrets that are better kept hidden from boys until they become fathers of young daughters themselves. And who knows, if nobody tells them, they might never figure it out and their daughters might be able to celebrate Valentine’s day on the actual day for once.

Well, one can hope…

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Author:

I am an Instructional Designer, avid reader, small-town woman and working mother with a fish-eye perspective. I have just published my first book, The Forest Bed and other short stories. If you like my stories on this blog, feel free to Like, Comment, Reblog and Share. You can reach me at shailygrwl@gmail.com or through my Facebook page facebook.com/shailyagrawalwrites/

4 thoughts on “Matters of Heart: Act 4

  1. I remember giving girls Valentine’s Day cards at school. Well, not giving them as such, rather leaving them where they would be found. They were anonymous of course, so rather pointless. One girl opened my card and looked around the class. I blushed, and she smiled. But nothing ever came of it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🀣🀣🀣 The grounding day is pretty invisible to all except the parents of the girls, Don. Even most girls don’t realise why they never saw a Valentine’s day celebration on the actual day. πŸ˜‹

      Liked by 1 person

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