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Valentine’s memories

Last update - Thursday, March 1, 2012, 14:51 By Logan Raju

Valentine, dear valentine, where art thou? Many of us are still searching for romance, love and that one true soul mate, no matter where we are in the world.

Back in multiracial Malaysia in the 1980s, Valentine’s Day was celebrated by people from all backgrounds, not just Christians (commercialism and western influence surely played a big role in that). At the time, for me, education was my priority – Valentine’s Day was for grown-ups who were getting engaged or married, it was all cards and gifts, hearts and roses. When I asked my dad about it, he said that if I was so interested in roses, then I should help him and my grandpa in the garden! Later on, as I grew to appreciate literature, poetry and philosophy, I had a greater understanding of the day, and would often send greetings to my mum, sisters and nieces. Why not? It’s all in the name of love!
When I came to Dublin, I found St Valentine’s Day was still as exciting was it was back home, and as it sill is today – for those who celebrate it, of course. I can recall people dashing to the florists, running around buying cards and chocolates at the ‘eleventh hour’, with desires to make up with a loved one, to impress or woo a new admirer, or just take a chance.
It was fashionable to go to a pub first, then to a restaurant for a romantic candlelit dinner with wine and champagne (if you could afford it) before hitting the nightclub scene. Many nightclubs had restaurants too, and you had to be a ‘somebody’ to enter some of these establishments.
My first experience of Valentine’s Day in Dublin was fun! My more ‘senior’ Malaysian student friends, some of whom were already involved with Irish girlfriends, invited me out that evening.
We all met up in a pub and I was very privileged to escort two lovely Irish girls: Anne, whom I’d met before and who was studying law, and new friend Mary, who was studying medicine. We had a lot of laughter together, even if I was accused of eating a dictionary for breakfast. I admit I was in the habit of using bombastic or flowery language, and would create poetry on the spot, just for fun!
We then went to a discotheque to meet up with more of our Irish friends, and were later joined by my foreign student friends who were working in restaurants and the like. The music was blaring away, the bars were full, the people were dressed to impress, there were smiles and happiness around. And so much chatter! ‘Can I have this dance please? Would you like a drink? Who’re you with? Who’s your friend? Where do you live? What do you do?’
The questions got deeper if you didn’t look Irish: ‘Where do you come from? Are you rich? You must be clever, how did you learn English? Do you live in big houses?’ And my personal favourites: ‘Oh bejaysus you’re gorgeous! You have a car, you must be loaded! Will you give me a lift home?’ Cue much giggles all round. My, that was a learning curve!
When the first slow set came on, both Mary and Anne wanted to dance with me. I couldn’t choose between them, so I decided to sit it out. But the competition was rife – for moi! What a novel experience!
Eventually we made a deal that I would dance with both of them together. And them came the questions: ‘Have you had a girlfriend before in Malaysia or in Ireland? Have you kissed before? Are you still a virgin?’ What did I walk into! I could feel my face getting hot from embarrassment and shyness. As we say here, I was ‘scarlet’!
Later that evening, I gave them both a lift home. I dropped Mary off first, and I still remember that forlorn look she gave me. Anne, meanwhile, just had a cheeky smile. On the way to her place, she told me she ‘won’. Naively, I asked her what she meant, and she said that I’d find out soon enough.
Outside her house, Anne asked me if I’ve ever had a Valentine’s kiss. I just looked at her and she grabbed me. What could I do?
Some time after, a friend asked me if I’d ever sent anybody flowers on St Valentine’s Day. All I said was that I had a very memorable day, had a quiet lunch with a lady friend, gave her a card with a poem and a single white rose and declared my love and faithful friendship. I told her that she was my lucky star, and that loving her had made me bananas! I don’t think my friend believed me.

Logan Raju is a Malaysian-Indian entrepreneur living in Ireland for 30 years.

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