Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine's Day in a village

Most Indians go holidaying to their native place or their village during the school vacations. The major Indian festivals like Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi or festivals of local importance cause mass bookings on trains and buses, leaving the Indian Railways and State Transport services burning the candle at both ends. Going to the native place at least once a year, is almost the single most important thing on people’s mind during the run up to the holidays or the festivals. But one of my friends does not care a toss about the visit to his native place during the vacations or the festivals. This guy goes into the “going to the native place craze” during the run up to Valentine’s Day.
"Valentine’s Day is round the corner. I won’t be attending college. I am leaving for my village” was his regular refrain 3-4 weeks before Valentine’s Day during all the 4 years of our Bachelor’s degree in my agriculture college. Everything else seemed of tertiary importance (saying secondary importance would amount to an understatement). The first time I heard him talking about his trip to his village for Valentine’s Day, my reaction was something like this:

Friend: Valentine’s Day is approaching. I am going to my village. (He was talking to someone else)

Me: WHAT? What did he just say?

That day I could not ask him the reason for some reason. I simply assumed that he had a loving girlfriend, who longed for him in his village, who was more important to him than food, clothing and shelter and that he would consecrate the weeks before Valentine’s for her to make up for his absence during the rest of the year. My imagination did shift into an overdrive but I had to assume an answer for his inexplicable frenzy to visit his native place for Valentine’s Day. He sure did disappear for nearly a month before Valentine’s and returned only a week after Valentine’s Day. This was too much for me. What could he possibly have done during such a long period? Frenzied love-making sessions for a month? Or did he belong to some bizarre cult that had its own month long celebrations and customs for Valentine’s Day that were hitherto concealed from the eyes of the world? I had to ask him.

Me: Hi! How was your trip to your village this time?

Friend: Fantastic. It was more enlightening than last year.

Me: Enlightening? What do you go to your village during Valentine’s Day for?

Friend: For the preparations for Valentine’s Day?

Me: What do you mean? I am lost. Are you trying to tell me that your tiny, distant village in Pune actually celebrates Valentine’s Day?

Friend: No. We don’t do such things in our village. (Emphasizes 'such')

Me: Then what do you do?

Friend: My uncle cultivates flowers. He has 3 greenhouses where he cultivates all sorts of flowers especially the ones that are demanded the most during Valentine’s Day. You see he exports flowers to Europe. This time of the year, we face a shortage of labour on the greenhouse for tending to the flowers. (He had all my attention) I go there to help him out. It is the best time to learn about flower cultivation and greenhouse management. I also get to learn a lot from his manager who handles the export part. I work myself in the storage and packaging sections for the flowers. We have to handle those flowers like we hold new-borns. They are very delicate and even slight damages result in revenue losses. It is a mad race out there amongst neighbours. I didn’t tell you. Most of my uncle’s neighbours also grow flowers. They wildly compete amongst themselves to produce the best flowers. They even tease and mock each other about if someone's flowers seem inferior than their own. It is seriously embarrassing if someone else’s flowers are better than yours. It is back-breaking work but immensely satisfying. Our flowers leave for Europe a week before Valentine’s Day and then it is the accounts work that takes up our time.

Me: Oh my! I could not even imagine this. (I felt ashamed of the possibilities that I had imagined) It must be hard work. I bet you know all that happens in a greenhouse off pat.

Friend: Absolutely. I can handle a greenhouse all on my own. My uncle totally trusts me. I feel that I learn more on the greenhouse than during our horticulture classes. But theoretical knowledge is also important.

Me: That is great! Are the revenues good?

Friend: Yes. It depends on the orders. We earn up to Rs. 6 lakhs for 5-6 weeks of work. But these people (purchasers) do not always pay up on time. Europe purchases lots of flowers during Valentine’s Day. For that matter, even Bombay and Poona have a huge demand for even Grade 3 quality flowers. Valentine’s Day is good for business. I love it.

Me: I agree with you.

I had actually learnt how a certain farming community in Pune benefits from Valentine’s Day celebrations. They even admit that they love it. I appreciated my friend's yearly pilgramage to his village for Valentine's Day. I wonder what the Ram and Bajrang worshippers, who protect our “Great Indian Culture” and would by now be receiving ‘pink chaddis’ with love, would feel about this.


ach_85 said...

My side of the story is that I have been spending my Valentine day amidst exams since last 3 years .... and now I think it is kind of deliberate on their part :P

Natalia said...

Achintya will you be kind enough to specify who "they" are since you say that "it is kind of deliberate on their part"?

ach_85 said...

My institute administration.... which decide dates of exams. What else :)

Prasenjeet said...

Who is he

Natalia said...

@Achintya: So IIT Delhi is the villain for you. But are you 12 years old? Why is Valentine's day important for you?

ABHIJEET said...

i remenber this guy, but right now I can't recall his name, it starts with D right? ohhhh i got it Duraphe.

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