A Brown Valentine

(Based on a true story, names of the subjects have been changed)

“All you need is love your parents’ permission!”

It’s that day. The day that every single person dreads due to pressure from all sides, mocking their love lives (or lack of thereof). It’s also the day the young and the old alike, go out of their way to make heartfelt proclamations of love through extravagant gifts. No matter how much a lot of us singles loathe it, it keeps coming back each year, reminding us of the societal custom to have a significant other, at least on this day, to prove our social skills.

That’s how it is all over the world and now, India is catching up with the gratuitous pretence as well (bummer)! Although, we’re not quite there yet and this shall be backed by an incident a friend of mine related to me.

Point to be noted here is that even if we’re adapting to the modern values of our western counterparts, dil toh hindustani hi he which is exactly why my lovely brown friend, let’s call her Simran, knew that asking her parents if she could go out on a date with a boy would result in her posterior being whacked by the lovely footwear that graced her mother’s feet.

Therefore, cooking up a story was inescapable, and Simran didn’t disappoint, honing those culinary skills every brown girl is stereotyped to have, except in the art of story-telling.

Simran – “Ma, I need to head out. Sunny is in the hospital.”

Mother – “Oh goodness, she’s your old classmate right? What happened?”

Simran – “I don’t know yet. I should go.”

Mother – “Of course, let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

Sunny was a medical intern. It wasn’t a lie per se and Simran headed out. She was supposed to meet her date in a restaurant at the mall (because of course, all fine-dining restaurants hike up their prices on such auspicious days).

Upon reaching the mall, she entered the security check lineup and to her utter horror, right there, at the side near the exit gate, was her neighbour, Mrs. Sharma. Of course!

Before the darned woman could spot her, Simran turned straight around and hightailed out of the line, to seek sanctuary behind a nearby pillar. There, she peeked out from her vantage point and watched with bated breath as Mrs. Sharma loaded her full shopping bags into the rickshaw and got in, a glum looking Mr. Sharma in close pursuit, mourning at the weight of his empty wallet no doubt.

As their rickshaw sped off through the exit gate into the distance, Simran left her hideout and smoothed down her clothes, heaving a sigh of relief. She made it a point to scan the entire area before claiming a spot in the security check line again.

Thankfully, she made it up to the restaurant without any more such accidents and upon entering, scanned the place for any more familiar faces. Upon finding none that could pose a significant threat on her well being, she made her way to the table. Her date was waiting for her.

Upon being seated, she popped her romantic greeting in the form of a question, “Did you check the bathrooms?”

“Yes, don’t worry. The coast is clear for now,” he replied.

“Perfect. Hand me the menu,” Simran said, and thereupon, that’s how the rest of their date went, sneaking mushy glances at each other from behind their menu cards and every time they heard someone enter the restaurant, both would shrink behind the menu cards, observe and wait until they were sure they were in the clear.

As if that wasn’t enough, after the date, a quick hug later, they exited the restaurant and it seemed like their knowledge of each other was forgotten inside. They walked to the exit with a signifiant amount of distance between them, anyone could’ve mistaken them for strangers.

Finally, they subtly turned to each other, nodded and parted ways.

Simran going out the normal exit while her date took the back exit, got a rickshaw and came to the front area, where Simran was waiting.

She quickly got in. It was time for some real romance of course, provided through as much liberty two 16 year olds in love could get inside a moving rickshaw.

A few shy kisses later, her date laughed and happened to look out of the rickshaw into the moving traffic and right away, was beside himself with fear.

“What’s wrong?” Simran asked, shifting into a high-alert state.

“My mum is in the car next to us. Oh my god, I’m so screwed. This is it,” he said, his face turning multiple shades of white.

“Fuck, quick, get into the back seat of the rickshaw.”

“Woman, what are you saying? There is no back seat. That’s the freakin’ dicky,” he exclaimed.

“And you’re small enough, you’ll fit. GET IN!”

And that was how her date spent the rest of the ride, hiding in the most awkward position in the boot of the rickshaw, covered underneath Simran’s jacket.

At the time, both thought it was God’s way of punishing them for celebrating this day of love. But then Simran said, that every date she’d been on after this one had followed a similar pattern.

So at the end of the day, it’s only this generation of young brown kids that has truly accepted the spirit of Valentine’s, most of us can attest to the fact that being found out is unleashing hell in our respective homes.

And that is the way it’s going to be for most of us for quite some time.

So to everyone out there, a happy Valentine’s day and to those of you that have something planned that your folks don’t know about, we at Whistles and Echoes, wish you the best!

May Cupid be with you!

Written by Sarah Zia

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