If you are a 90's kid, I am sure you grew up believing that the colour of love was red. So did I.
I remember as a child when I first got introduced to Valentine's day. Like every other kid, my mother was my first Valentine. On my way back from school, I got her a red rose, and she pecked me on the cheek in return.
Over the years, I met several who've told me stories about how valentines day was 'not a thing' in their younger days, and the relationship still survived. By the time I was thirteen, I knew that Valentine's day was not a big deal. But then I got my first Valentine's day card, and a red rose in college. The sender? Anonymous! It was exciting to think that I had a secret admirer.
I wouldn't lie, I had a phase where I enjoyed wearing red hues on the day. Valentine's day was always about the 'red' colour day. Cakes, cards, balloons shops -- all painted in red.
I know that red is the colour of love because it is the colour of the heart. (at least, that's what I'd known!) But today, at this time and age, there's a simple question: Why is the colour of love red?
If Valentine's day is a day to celebrate love, then it is time to move on from one specific colour. Defining love in a single colour can be a way of uniforming the emotion. But it could also lead to a sense of confinement- confining to the norms of 'love' -- based on gender, caste or religion and whatnot -- that we're made to believe.
But, an emotion as complex and varied as love, needs to be defined in as many colours as possible. Valentine's day is also an opportunity for us to make the space more inclusive for people who belong to various orientations.
The Bridge Chronicle spoke to Shyam Konnur, founder and director of The Mist organisation and Mr Gay India 2020 who shared his thoughts. "India is still struggling with a lot of things when it comes to love. Take examples of love jihad or the ad by Tanishq. It is not a nice place to be. Even if the queer community, we have people who say, 'I'm a Hindu, and I need to find a Hindu or whoever.' The country is still stuck with finding fair people, who go with the caste. Our country has a long way to go," said the activist.
It's funny, how it is 2021 and it is only now that we are beginning to talk about it. India Love Project, an Instagram page dedicated to celebrating love is doing a brilliant job of bringing strong love stories to the forefront.
"Love and marriage outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender," is how they describe themselves.
With more than a hundred love stories already featured on the page, the founders are not only defying the hetero-normative belief system but also providing a support system. It is helping people look at love as something above all the barriers that society puts on us.
Talking about the colour of love, the founders said, "We don't think love has a single colour. It may be blue for one person, orange for another and a rainbow for a third. That's one way to think about relationships as well—different strokes for different folks. And each colour is as vibrant and beautiful and desirable as the next."
When it comes to making the space more inclusive, it important to realise that it is a collective effort. "We at India Love Project believe that sharing more stories of these unions shows that interfaith they are everywhere you look. They are natural and normal and part of the history of this country. Valentine's Day can be used to reach out to and help those who are feeling oppressed or scared because of their choice of mate. On Valentine's Day we can spread the word in our circles of family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and other groups, that interfaith and any other non-mainstream unions are not deviant and should be encouraged and embraced. It's a good day to spread more love, as much love as we can, and shun hate—all of it," added the founders.
No doubt our society is becoming more open and accepting towards same-sex couples and inter-caste/religion love, but we cannot ignore couples who still struggle their way through it.
Talking about the issue to doctor Shivangi Pawar a consultant psychotherapist, we tried to understand the problems faced by interfaith couples. "One of the common problems faced by intercaste/ religion couples is disapproval of their parents and social criticism. This can disturb the peace in the family. The couples may get frustrated or even depressed if they do not find themselves to be compatible, adjust to the culture or fail to follow the religious practices. The cultural and religious difference between the parents also affects the child. Society doesn’t recognize intercaste/religion marriages. Hence, their children do not get that much-needed love and affection. The couple has to manage their finances and household responsibilities on their own owing to the lack of support from their parents and other family members," said the doctor.
When asked about the colour of love, she said, "Red is considered as the color of passion and romance. Red lips are also considered as sensual. Moreover, a red dress also attracts eyeballs. But, Valentine’s Day should not be limited to only red. The definition ‘Red means love,’ needs to be changed. Love can be in any shape, form, and color. The definition of love may differ from person-to-person. One may associate love with yellow as it makes the person happy. Some may find love in red while some in other colors. In reality, love is an emotion that has to be felt. Love is what makes a person feel wanted and happy."
Over the years, Valentine's Day has become a time of the year, where restaurants and gifting industry look forward to increased sales. The week before Valentine's day has a lot to offer - teddy day, propose day, chocolate day. Somewhere, losing its prominence. But dedicating the day towards a larger cause is what we need as a collective society.
Let red not be the only colour that you express your love. Instead, let your love talk in its own language, own colour and manner.