"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

There are other things to worry about, romance can wait Featured

Gurpreet Singh 

This February 14 was no different. Unmindful of wars, repression and marches for missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada, privileged couples in their comfort zone expressed love to each other. After all, Valentine’s Day has been marked as a romantic occasion for years.

Many in the West may not be familiar with the name of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a towering progressive Urdu poet of Pakistan, but his birthday falls on February 13, a day before people are busy ordering roses and chocolates for their loved ones.

As Faiz prophetically said in one famous verse addressed to his sweetheart, please don’t expect the love I once had for you, as there is so much misery in our world to deal with. 

Known for his leftist ideology, Faiz was critical of the system that discriminated against the poor and marginalized. What he stood for remains relevant today, due to growing social disparity not just in his own country, but neighbouring India, besides North America.

Ironically, Valentine’s Day has become popular in South Asia too, where Faiz is losing charm in spite of the history of colonialism. In India, the situation is worse under a right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government, whose supporters despise both Faiz and Saint Valentine. Not surprisingly, the attacks on Muslims and Christians have grown, as BJP supporters are known for their hatred against Islam and Christianity, let alone their dislike for anything they consider alien to the Indian culture. The bigots conveniently ignore their own heritage that once allowed polygamy and encouraged both erotic art and literature, such as Kama Sutra.

In a more ideal situation like the one in Canada, where all this is welcomed in the name of free choice and consumerism, the masses are least bothered about other pressing issues. Here Valentine’s Day and the annual marches for missing and murdered indigenous women happen around the same time. Obviously, not every Canadian is on board to march along with those pained by systemic racism indigenous women face in this country.

This year, the world is also facing many other challenges, like the ongoing attacks on Palestine by Israel, and the Russian-Ukraine war which has impacted the global economy, making the life of the less privileged more difficult.

We probably need to hear and feel what Faiz told his beloved. Yes, the greetings and roses can wait until there is peace and justice. Saint Valentine’s legacy should not be reduced to tokenism either. He laid down his life for the right of the couples to marry in defiance of the Roman Empire. Considering how interracial or same sex couples are being hounded in socially conservative countries, and how human rights defenders are incarcerated all over the world, we need to celebrate Valentine’s Day differently by spreading more humane and spiritual love which have become a rare commodity.


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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi


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