My Dear Valentine, What is Love? / Arathi Devandran

My dear valentine, did you know that in Slovenia, Saint Valentine is called Zdravko? He is a saint of spring, the saint of good health, and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. It makes sense, does it not? There is nothing quite like the devotion of bees to nectar, a devotion that brings them back again and again, until all the water within the collected water diminishes. At this point, dear valentine, the nectar becomes honey.

In my language, we call this amrita.

My dear valentine, when I say your name, it tastes like amrita in my mouth.


My dear valentine, in ancient Rome, Lupercalia was a local rite connected to fertility. Some say that men and women who participated in this rite drew names from a jar to couple with them.

My dear valentine, I do not need to tell you that you were the first name I drew in my past life. I drew you once, I drew you twice, and I drew you again and again to me. Even now, in my dreams, sometimes I see old scripts with two names; it is yours and mine.

We were joined, dear valentine, even before we knew what this love could do to us.


My dear valentine, what is love?

Just yesterday, I sat before the sea and watched the waves reach towards the shore. They were aggressive, these amorous lovers; their joining is potent and explosive and so, so swift. Soon, the waves recede, and in that separation, there is an imprint of that love in the sand.

Love, even in the slightest, my dear valentine, leaves an indelible mark.

My dear valentine, what is love?

It is the colour of the rising sun and the setting sun. It is the way the fog rolls in slowly into the mountains and there is the slightest hint of rain on upturned cheeks. It is the name that flashes on a black screen when a text message arrives. It is the long, unending night with only the stars for company. It is the beginning, my dear valentine, but never the end, only an unending middle.

And it is from here, my dear valentine, that I write to you, to tell you that you are on my thoughts, and that I seek you, as the waves seek the shore, as the bees seek nectar, as the names that are picked together time and time again over lifetimes passed.


[These are the lyrics that come to mind when I think of you, dear valentine].

“சின்னஞ்சிறு சின்னஞ்சிறு ரகசியமே
சின்னஞ்சிறு சின்னஞ்சிறு ரகசியமே
சின்னஞ்சிறு சின்னஞ்சிறு அதிசயமே
சின்னஞ்சிறு விரல் கொடு

சின்னஞ்சிறு சின்னஞ்சிறு
இடம் கொடு
சின்னஞ்சிறு ஆசைக்கு போய் சொல்ல

Arathi Devandran curates personal experiences, snapshots of the world and the stories people are willing to share with her through prose and poetry

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