Memento February 14

by Shahtub Siddique Anik

The college goers of ’90s are sure to get nostalgic if I remind them of Gaane Gaane Bhalobasa, a Bangla album — a story of a man and a woman through exchange of letters, with songs by Parashpathar and Anjan Dutta. It includes some classic numbers like “Bondhu”, “Esho amar ghore ekbar”, “Shohorer ushnotomo dine” and of course “Bhalobasa mane Archies gallery”.

It was a good collection to have and I bought a copy at Tk 35. “Archies gallery” was one of the first few songs that I learnt to play on my Gibson guitar. I didn’t know what really Archies gallery was and what it had to do with “Bhalobasa”. Never mind, I used to live in a small district town of North Bengal and I was not that smart.

But as I moved to the capital on completion of HSC, I finally understood what it was all about.

It is greeting card that has something to do with love. Archies gallery sells greeting cards and those are beautiful.

I also learnt that there is a very special day when the sales of those cards go unusually up. It’s called Valentine’s Day.

Cards account for 60 percent of Valentine’s Day spending, according to an estimate. The number of cards given at Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas. As cards are such a big piece of the business, Archies and Hallmark want to make sure we find the right thing to say. That’s why they offer thousands of Valentine’s card designs.

However, options are there to choose candies, flowers and jewelries.

From Parashpathar to Archies to Valentine’s Day — my general knowledge was developing every day.

But what is the day anyway?

On February 14, one has to wish his or her loved ones a happy Valentine’s Day. This is celebrated across the world, with great romantic fervors and enthusiasm. Over the years, it became popular also in Bangladesh.

The day is named after Saint Valentine, a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II.

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many bloody campaigns. Claudius was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military. He believed the reason was that men did not want to leave their loves or families. So, the mighty emperor cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.

Saint Valentine stood against the regime. He secretly helped couple marry, and for this kind deed he was dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on February 14, about the year 270.

Oh my God! St Valentine was a martyr! He was a rebel! This is why I never want to read history. It reminds us of many things that we want to forget. If the couples of our time while roaming around TSC on February 14 are reminded of the sacrifice and martyrdom of Valentine, the day is sure to be ruined.

Perhaps amnesia makes our life less painful.

We easily forgot the anti-autocracy movement of the ’80s. On February 14, 1983, students lodged a massive protest against the education policy of Ershad-led military regime that usurped to the state power the previous year. Five students — Jafar, Dipali Saha, Zainal, Mojammel and Ayub — were shot to death by law enforcers. The next year, on the same day, the military rulers ran a truck on a peaceful procession marking the anniversary of the killing. Selim and Delwar were crushed under the wheels to death.

Finally, following supreme sacrifices of many others like Dr Milon and Noor Hossain, the ruler-cum-dictator Ershad was ousted in 1990. This was how country achieved democracy.

But the times they are a-changin’. Hardly anyone now recalls Jafar, Dipali and others on February 14. Thanks to media promotion, young people and students have to celebrate the Valentine’s Day. Bhalobasa mane Archies Gallery!