Come February 14 and one finds the shops in the city stacked with heart-shaped and cupids bearing cards. Besides, chocolates and other Valentine’s Day goodies also make their presence felt. The print as well as the electronic media is flooded with features on Valentine’s Day, with millions around the world anxiously following it.
The festivity of Valentine’s Day is immersed in myth and mystery. Its origins lie in the ancient Roman fertility festival called ‘Lupercalia’, celebrated on the 15 of February. Pope Gelasius in 469 AD changed the date to 14 in order to distance it from Roman paganism and associate it with St. Valentine. During ‘Lupercalia’, young women would place their names in urns and the men would draw a name from the urn. This woman was then romantically linked to the man for the rest of the year.
It is a fact that Valentine’s Day took birth from a Catholic saint named Valentine. However, the Church recognizes three different St. Valentines with three different stories. The first St. Valentine was executed for secretly marrying young lovers against the orders of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. This St. Valentine was friends with the jailer’s daughter whom he sent a letter before being executed on the 14th of February. He signed this letter as, “From your Valentine.” The second St. Valentine was a bishop of Terni, Italy. He was martyred in Rome. The third St. Valentine is believed to be dead along with many of his other companions in Africa.
The significance of Valentine’s Day may differ for different persons. In order to get an immaculate perspective on Valentine’s Day, I approached Dr. Francisco Colaço, eminent cardiologist, a pioneer of Echocardiography in Goa and social activist and his wife Mrs. Fernanda Colaço, who lectures in Portuguese at Carmel College, Nuvem and Shree Damodar Higher Secondary School of Science, Margao.
Dr. Colaço and Mrs. Colaço both have an inclination towards music. He plays the guitar and she is a good singer. Both ardently love the Goan Manddo and folk music. It comes as no surprise that their love ‘blossomed’ through music at ballroom dances and serenades. “The ice was broken through music,” admits Dr. Colaço. Married for 39 years, Dr. Colaço tenderly states that love happened between them ‘at first sight’ and that this love was, “profound and not just skin deep”. He opines that love ‘binds’ two people with different temperaments and styles.
Dr. Colaço and Mrs. Colaço had married when they were still studying. Subsequently, they moved to Bombay so that he could complete his MD course. There Mrs. Colaço took up a small job, sacrificing her own studies. On completion, they returned to Goa where Dr. Colaço started his consultancy. They later moved to the USA. “Those were hard days,” says Dr. Colaço, at the same time being grateful for all the support he received from his wife.
And then came a day when the worst happened. Melwyn, their son met a sad and untimely death and both of them were devastated. But love held them together and over the stretches of time, they gained a new perspective of life. They came still closer and their relationship deepened. Both agree that faith and religion strengthened them. Their son was, in the words of Dr. Colaço, very humble and charitable. “And our son was also our counsellor,” adds Mrs. Colaço.
For Dr. Colaço, each day is a Valentine’s Day. He holds today’s Valentine’s Day as purely commercialized. “If it reminds you of your loved ones, it’s fine. But if it leads to too much materialism than some moderation is required.”
Chris Benguhe in the February 2005 issue of ‘Together’ magazine urges us to move away from commercialization as “…blessed love between a man and a woman is an incredible and sincere gift that’s worth waiting for and cannot be forced, bought or bargained for.”
Valentine’s Day has seeped through the boundaries of our cultures, religions and countries. Has love, too?
(A Version of this article appeared on GOA PLUS, a weekly supplement of the Times of India and the Economic Times, dt: February 13, 2008)