It was tenth of February. I was standing at a departmental store in Karachi, waiting for my turn. Around me was a crowd buying colourful, attractive gifts for their loved ones. They were all preparing for the Valentine’s Day.
Being a journalist, I began asking questions. A young man—in his early twenties—told me that he would wish his lover Valentine’s Day at midnight between February 13 and 14. Waving a teddy bear, he said he would meet his lover at his university or some recreational spot and present this gift to her.
I asked the girl standing at the counter where I could find the owner. The next day I was sitting in the office of the owner. He told me that compared with previous years, the buying for Valentine’s Day this year was negligible despite its promotion by various marketing agencies and multinational companies.
“Last year the most sold items were chocolates, cards, red rose, teddy bears, perfumes, cakes and heart-shaped balloons,” he said. “Young professionals—boys and girls alike—bought bracelets, necklaces and diamond or gold rings. But this year most of the buyers want to have such items that are bigger, but less expensive.”
A journalist friend of mine told me that Pakistani youngsters get their ideas for gifts on Valentine’s Day from Hollywood movies such as Runaway Bride. They even copy the style of presenting the gifts and wishing their lovers from films. Although celebrating Valentine’s Day is not as common in Pakistan as in other parts of the world, it is gaining popularity among students of colleges and universities.
Jibran Siddiqui, who works for a local television channel, said price-hike and bad law and order situation had affected buying of Valentine’s Day gifts. “Teenagers, however, manage to save some money for buying gifts. Older people avoid spending on such things because they are more affected by the conditions of the country.”
Married people also buy gifts for their spouses. In fact, most buyers are married. They spend this occasion as if it is their wedding anniversary.
A woman associated with Samaa, a local television channel, said most youngsters now remain busy earning their livelihood. “They don’t have time for celebrating Valentine’s Day. Those outside the reach of marketing companies hardly ever get to know what Valentine’s Day is.”
Masa’ab Ali, who works for a telecom company, said it was better to think about the other 364 days of the year than celebrating this day. “This occasion doesn’t solve the problems that we face the whole year.”
Khawer Khan, an anchor at a radio channel, said this occasion was a means to spread happiness in these times when everybody was becoming intolerant and self centred. “It’s not an occasion only for young people to express love. This day should be used to sit together and spend some happy time with those who are unhappy with you.”
He said it was disappointing to see youngsters spending money extravagantly on this occasion and copying others’ civilization.
A reporter working for a television channel in Lahore said Valentine’s Day in itself was value-neutral. “It is everyone’s individual psyche that makes it negative or positive.”
Rana Muhammad Asif, who works for a major media group, said the Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with Pakistan. “It has been promoted by the corporate sector. That is why it looks unnatural here. It doesn’t have any foundations in our society.”
He said that not only in Pakistan, but 40 percent of the people all over the world think about it in negative terms. Making Valentine’s Day the occasion to cement relationship shows how fragile the bond really is.”
Another journalist said the largest number of Valentine’s cards were given to teachers in America, which is another aspect of this day. “The positive thing is that this day encourages people to keep a happy relationship with others and caring about them.”