On the Day of Saint Valentine

Honestly, I never celebrated this occasion of relentless drama and consumerism in my whole life. Even when my status was ‘in a relationship’. The poor guy would be returned with a scornful lecture of the futility and superficiality of Valentine’s Day if he (or, they) made the mistake of wishing me. The hopeless losers whose eyes were set on me would receive verbal punches. I don’t do love like regular folks, baby. And yet, I gotta tell you guys. This year I had my best Valentine’s Day. Ever. Nope, there was no man. (Two people wished me this year and both were women.) No sex. No kiss. No stupid and overpriced crap from Archies’. I was all alone in a city quite far away from home. And yet…..

Should I start from the morning? No, I think I had better start from the previous evening. It was Maha Shivratri on 13th here. My parents raised me a goddamn pain-in-the-ass feminist so I have never been among the ladies keeping fast and praying to Lord Shiva for existing husbands or prospective ones. I hope I will be able to keep that status quo in tact till I die. But as I said many times recently, there’s a subtle change in me these days. So this year I took part in the celebration. And Shivratri is a grand occasion here at Mahakal Temple. I don’t know if it was the heavy smell of pot all over the temple premises or just my inner happiness, but I was over the moon the whole time. From standing in the queue till devouring the Prasad. (It was delicious by the way. Khichdi, aloo dum, puri, churma, kheer, jalebi and papad.) And there was practically no spot left on my forehead for another teeka. And all the while I couldn’t help but recall what had happened exactly a year back. The best thing about arrogance is that the inevitable irony when it shatters into pieces. And you are halfway there if the irony brings a silent chuckle to your face instead of humiliation. I did throw a quick chuckle at Lord Shiva while prostrating amidst a sea of milk and mulched petals. He is the funniest of all; he would know.

My Valentine’s Day started with another puja. This time it was down below, at the Bhutia Busty Monastery. It was the puja of Gonpo Pernagchen or Mahakala. It is new moon tomorrow and the day after tomorrow is Lhosar, the Tibetan New Year. Lord Mahakala’s puja usually takes place on the 29th day of the last Lunar month as per the Tibetan almanac. He is this super wrathful deity who is the protector of all sentient beings. Hence the Buddhists end their old year worshiping him to ward off all the bad luck so that the New Year begins with new hope. The custom is to bring a handful of rice and some coins and offer it to the effigy. And then make wishes. Mr. B, the ex-employee of my office and a member of the monastery committee was there as always guiding me through. A small session at his home after attending the puja was bonus. He knows a great deal about Vajrayana and the history of the region. And I listened with all my heart.

After coming home I made my first ever fish curry. Two days back I had fallen terribly sick with sudden fever and a possible food poisoning so my mother asked me to keep it low-key. And even with almost no spices the fish curry turned out to be so tasty that my friend D told me to give myself a pat in the back. Hot steaming rice with fish curry while watching TV in bed – the best Valentine’s Day feast ever.

And just when I was thinking the day couldn’t get any better, it started raining. Which immediately followed by a power-cut. With nothing else to do I lit a cigarette and stood on my balcony, watching Darjeeling getting drenched in a sudden and untimely rain. When the last train for the day was slowly entering the station and the black smoke coiling out of it was getting mixed with the hazy layer of rain I wasn’t sure if it was the effect of my Black Hitler or just normal euphoria. An hour later when the downpour settled into a steady drizzle and light returned I again stepped out in the balcony. People had gathered around at the station and they were shouting. Phone flashes were going off around. I squinted through the dark and realized why. Under the new moon sky Darjeeling was looking unbelievably white. Hailstorm. It was past 7.30 and I knew the narrow alleyway from my house leading down the station would be very very dark. But I didn’t care. I dressed up, took my umbrella and headed off into the dark. The entire road was covered in a thick layer of little ice balls. It was damn slippery and my running shoes were making crunching noise. They were eating popsicles under my feet.

When I came back to my room the tip of my nose was very red and my whole body was shaking with  the sudden surge of adrenaline. I did say that once you start believing in something the universe will bend itself backward to make it manifest.
Yes, the best Valentine’s Day ever.