What’s in a gift?

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It was interesting to see the timelines on Valentine’s Day.

A man declared his love for his wife and mother of his two daughters. He wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day. How can you not love that!

A married couple shot a video and announced how their Valentine’s Day celebrations have evolved over the years. It was relatable and endearing.

A man posted an image of his newly-wed second wife and expressed his gratitude for having her as his Valentine for the rest of his life. A second chance at love and marriage!

A woman posted about the two men in her life on Valentine’s Day and how she loved them both immensely. Pati, Patni and Woh! As long as it’s consensual, and all the three are happy about the situation, who are we to have an opinion?

A husband posted a picture of some luxurious romantic gifts that he gifted his wife because she’s truly worth it! Such love declarations must be flaunted, I say!

Young couples went on a romantic getaway and posted Insta stories.

Women posted snazzy snaps of their Galentine’s date.

Many declared they were in love with themselves and with life itself. Why not!

Many more dissed the day and cracked umpteen jokes about it. Like a woman joked how Valentine’s Day was the most dreaded in the year for her. I laughed out loud.

And then there were stories of women baring their heart about their ungrateful husbands, and about being taken for granted. About gaslighting and abuse. Tragic. Heartbreaking.

Back home, the husband woke up groggily and muttered something incoherently in his half-sleep to me, while I was in the kitchen getting breakfast done. I followed him into our bedroom with the ladle in my hand.

“Idiot! Today is Valentine’s Day, and all you can think of ‘is this-and-that done’?” I pouted and pouted some more.

He bit his tongue and blushed. He sheepishly pulled me closer, before wishing me.

He grabbed my hand, and we headed out to the dining room. He takes my daughter’s hand in one of his, and mine in the other, hugs and wishes us both a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day,’ as we huddle intimately. These are the little moments that make life magical. Worth living and fighting for! All of us head outdoors to our daily routine.

The brother calls up in the night excitedly and tells us how he and his wife are celebrating the day at a pub. They are new parents as well, and it took me back in time when the husband and I celebrated the birth of our daughter at 10 Downing Street as well. But, it wasn’t Valentine’s Day then. We just needed an excuse to have fun. The brother inquired what we were doing. I wanted to tell him it’s didn’t matter but anyway said to him the husband’s stuck at work, and daughter’s got exams the next day. But we have plans for the weekend.

A friend from the writer’s circle is in town, and we planned to catch up as a group the next day. I prepare lunch for the family while my husband goes to school to pick up our daughter. The husband wants to know my plans. I tell him that post lunch; I might hang around at the mall and check out the sales there. He asks me why do I want to shop alone and to head back home straight after lunch. An impromptu movie plan is made – 1917 in the evening. I’m looking forward to it.

We share conversations, banter, and laughter over lunch with my writer’s circle. I get back home. The husband informs that the daughter has vetoed the movie plan and wants it postponed to Sunday. He tells me to leave my handbag behind and whisks me away. I ask him where. He tells me to the nearby grocery store. I know it’s a lie because it’s been more than a decade of living together now. We take a rickshaw. I ask him where we’re going again. He tells me you wanted to shop, right? We’re going to shop. I smile in contentment.

He takes me to the Numaish or 2020 Hyderabad Nampally Exhibition. The place is packed like sardines. And, the gully girl in me is squealing in excitement. I’ve always been a sucker for street-side paraphernalia and not to forget, the cheap thrills of bagging a cool bargain.

“Thank God, we didn’t bring Nadine here.”, I tell the husband. “You never know when and where she’ll get pinched in this crowd.”

The husband gives me a piercing look. “You think you won’t get pinched here?”

I’ve crossed the age. Usually the perverts target innocent, young girls, who have no clue. I reason.

The husband disagrees. “They’ll even pinch and grope women in burkas, who cannot be seen as well.” Toh tum kya cheez ho types!

We continue our little arguments, me in front, husband behind, with his hands rested firmly on my shoulder. Like the horse carriage! You can figure out who’s the horse and the driver here. And so, we meander through the crowds.

Old Hindi songs blast through the loud speakers in the background.

Tum aa gaye ho noor aa gaya hai nahin toh charago se lau ja rahi thi!

Chup gaye saare nazare, oye kya baat ho gayi!

Sagar kinare dil yeh pukare tu jo nahin to mera koi nahin hain! 

The husband knows what he wants. He loved the Khadi shirts I bought for him last year. He’s looking to buy the same in bulk this year. I’m not sure if I’ll get my mall stuff here. Black pumps, black open-toe sandals, black jeans, and other basic but good quality stuff for sustainable wear! I look around and am sure this is not the place to get my stuff. There’s lots of antique junk jewelry around, though.

“Banjara stuff!” the husband exclaims.

“You want me to buy?” I casually ask even though I know he doesn’t like such large and gaudy baubles. And I’ve seriously outgrown them. My style has matured. Not twenties anymore, you know, and inching towards the forties in a couple of years. He dismisses as expected.

We pick his Khadi shirts from a couple of shops. I finally have something on my list, which I can buy here. Kolhapuri chappals. We go in search and find a shop. I buy one pair, slightly different from the classic style. But its still Kolhapuri. Cooler!

There’s an array of handloom stalls from different states. We walk into a Kashmiri stall. I am looking to buy a Pashmina saree. I select one, and he buys.

We’ve had some roadside knick-knacks all throughout, and stop by at a little eating joint within the exhibition premises at the end. We share a Bhel-puri and Thums-up.

“The exhibition is much better than I thought it would be.”, I remark.

I’m coming here after thirteen years. The husband’s coming here after twenty-five years.

On a rick back, he says that the stuff I picked is my Valentine’s Day gift. Then, he sighs, well, because he has no gift. He’s the one pouting now.

I begin to protest, and explain that I wanted to shop gifts for him and our daughter at the mall. But then, I don’t. I remain silent.

Does love need an explanation? A reason? A gift? A day?

Coz’ Valentine’s not just a day, it’s forever!

Love, maybe a simple four letter word, but it’s about you it’s about me, and a whole world that encompasses us. Love begins with accepting yourself wholeheartedly before extending that same kindness to your near and dear ones, and the world at large. 

Headed in the same direction, we soak in the sights of the buzzing Nizami city in the twilight.

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