Humour

Revisiting History : Valentine’s Day

Shah_Jahan_Mumtaz
Shah Jahan and Mumtaz sitting in separate rooms, giving each other the silent treatment after an argument about whether the idea that roses smell sweet is a cultural construct

Not many people know that Valentine’s day first originated in India during the Mughal period. It all started when Shah Jahan gifted his wife Mumtaz a marble palace for her birthday. She wasn’t very impressed with it, because she thought marble looked pale, dull and lifeless, and she preferred the rich colour and texture of sandstone instead, which he would have known if he had ever listened to her since she had mentioned it to him many times. Shah Jahan demanded that she accept the gift, since he spent so much money on it, and in fact, marble was the future of Mughal architecture and she was foolish not to realise it. Mumtaz pointed out that it seemed like it he loved marble more than he loved her and if he loved marble so much he might as well be buried in the palace. Shah Jahan was a patient man with a twisted sense of humour. To this day, the story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz is celebrated as the paragon example of romantic love in its purest form.

Today, many couples in India celebrate Valentine’s Day by following customs that subject their relationships to extreme stress, in a collective Darwinian struggle in which only the most resilient relationships survive. The most important of these traditions is gift-giving. Many people use the occasion of Valentine’s Day to gift their partners distinctive bright jewellery. This is so that they can recognise them in a crowd, and stop confusing them with other people. Teenagers sometimes choose to gift their partners large teddy bears, in a candid acknowledgement that their relationships are full of fluff. A gift of chocolates is always well-received by women, because there’s nothing like enjoying a box of chocolates alone to remind one of the sweet bliss of solitude and independence that precedes a relationship. Many couples also engage in socially conscious consumption by gifting each other cards with poorly written poetry and declarations of love, as a way of supporting the hardworking, yet talentless writers who work for the Archie’s Greeting Card Company.

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