by Rehana Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:25 am
Valentine's Day is a bit of a problem for young teachers, who suddenly start getting a lot of attention, and more, from their students on this day
The world might be divided between those who make Valentine's Day plans weeks in advance and those who throw up at the mention of the day, but apparently, there are some young intellectuals who also live in fear as the lovey-dovey week approaches. Purportedly, the younger teachers in schools and colleges invite a little too much love from the students, unintentionally. This manifests around the Valentine's week, where, they say, they are torn between not hurting the kids' feelings and maintaining an appropriate distance. While the more casual hints can be ignored, students tend to go a little to far sometimes, it seems.
"A teacher of mine was just three-four years older than us, so I guess people were a little less scared of him. During Valentine's week, a senior of ours started messaging this teacher, telling him how she had a thing for him. The teacher tried to knock sense into her brain, but she did not budge. Finally, I think, on Propose Day or something, she told him that she was going to commit suicide and he was going to be the one to blame. The poor teacher had to confide in the other teachers. I can only imagine how embarrassing it must've been," says Ridhi* from Ramjas College.
Hints and misses
"I think this is more common with girls, because boys are anyway not big fans of Valentine's Day. And girls are supposed to only imply and not say such stuff, conventionally. So they keep dropping hints. Last year, my friend made the entire group play truth and dare just so she could get a dare to go and tell this teacher that she liked him. The best part was, she went ahead and told him and the teacher took it to be a prank. He just laughed it off," says Rajan* of Hindu College.
Rock and a hard place
Students say that there's not much the teachers can do to escape silly comments and questions on Valentine's Day. "If a teacher takes sick leave around Valentine's week, everybody is like, zaroor sir ghoomne gaye honge. Agar woh aa jaate hain toh they have at least some roses and some chocolates coming their way. The goodies, I think, can be smiled off, but ladke toh phir aage-peeche hi ghoomte rehte hain, and girls pout and sulk as if they expected the teacher to take them seriously and reciprocate," says Sanchita Paul from Ambedkar University.
They are excited?
Some students say that rather than being scared or wary of the Valentine's week, some teachers are secretly excited about it. "I think it makes them feel special. It's very obvious that they expect at least a couple of cards and roses. They also dress up a little bit," says Aakshi, a DU graduate. "The teachers don't mind as long as it's nothing creepy, I think. Till the time it's just regular, healthy fun, even they play along. And that doesn't mean that the teachers pooh-pooh the students. They know the students are partly serious, but they just expect them to grow out of it, I think," says Meetika Kantha, Hansraj College.
What teachers say
"I don't think teachers in humanities departments are scared. These days, even the younger teachers, in their early and mid-20s, know how to handle such students' gaze, or inquiries. So it is alright. But, of course, when some students act like stalkers, it becomes a scary situation, and hence we need gender forums and sexual harassment cells. Teachers can also be stalked and harassed. But the cases are rare, thank heavens!" says Dr Parihar, a DU professor.
"I was scared when I ended up receiving a trillion gifts and roses. When the age gap between students and teachers is less, there's this notion that the students have a certain license. They tend to share more, and approach more often. At least that was the case with me. They thought it was easier, because of the age bracket, to connect with me, I guess. When I was teaching, I know at least three students who 'fell' for me, and brought me gifts on V-day. One even asked me if I was seeing someone. I was furious," says Sanchi Budhiraja, a western dance teacher.
The new damdami mai of the virgin tree
Among many other Delhi University rituals, there is one that has managed to stand the test of time and in fact, grow in terms of popularity and controversy, every year. After a silent year, the famous Hindu College Virgin Tree is back under the spotlight for its annual Valentine's Day pooja, and Deepika Padukone has been selected by the students to be this year's Damdami Mai. We spoke to Ajeet, president of the hostel union, who said, "This year, it was a unanimous decision to pick Deepika Padukone. Last year, saari (successful) movies uski hi thi and Ram-leela ke baad toh final ho gya tha unka naam by everyone." According to the ritual, praying and appealing to the appointed Damdami Mai helps the Hindu College boys 'lose their virginity'! The pooja is held on Valentine's Day morning, when the tree is decorated with posters of the star, confetti and condoms.
However, in the last few years, this fun celebration has received a lot of flak from the female student community for being sexist and derogatory. Anvesha Sinha*, a third year student of the college, said, "They keep up with the ritual to maintain the hype that it had created over the years. Personally, I think it's a stupid attempt by the horny hostel boys and the freshers play along because they all want the 'Hindu College experience'. There is no sense to what they really do on 14th and most of us stay away on that day."
Addressing this, Ajeet said, "We don't want the ritual to be just a joke. We have kept a social awareness theme this year and we will be talking about AIDS awareness this time." Last year, the hostel union picked actor John Abraham along with Jacqueline Fernandez to be their Virgin Tree icons, with the aim of promoting equality.