By Waqas Rafique
It was Friday and the colours of the Valentine’s Day were in full bloom. I tossed my vehicle into an annoyingly long queue of cars outside the Centaurus Mall, Islamabad, with a friend. All we wanted was a late afternoon snack. However, when we reached at the main gate, the security guard informed that we couldn’t go inside the mall since it was a “family day”. Awkwardly surprised, I told him that my friend and I were a family. Stubbornly, he directed us toward another security guard, who, after listening to my point, ironically said we needed to bring along “ladies” to enter the mall. We went to the other gate which was already crowded with bunch of guys. To my surprise, only girls, and not the boys, were being allowed to enter the mall. Men with families, on the other hand, were given the way.
Out of curiosity, I called upon the Centaurus management who reminded us how guys misbehaved (with girls and families) on the Valentine’s Day. Thus, to avoid any untoward situation, the management had decided to reserve Fridays and Saturdays only for families.
It was an embarrassing moment that happened in the country’s so-called most civilized city, Islamabad. I even felt sorry for the girls who entered the mall in search of their potential Valentines. Indeed, the Centaurus Mall’s decision is a trivial attempt to protect the so-called family values. For there was no way to ascertain if the lady accompanying a man was actually her ‘family’. Look at the irony of the situation, the mall took a decision against what it was celebrating – the Valentine’s Day – by not letting the boys in. On the other side, it was injustice to the girls who didn’t find single boys at all. And of course, such decisions may entail loss in revenues.
The mall’s decision finds its roots in the confused way we observe the Valentine’s Day. It is commercialised every year. However, people still feel alienated about it. Many girls and boys, who feel the urge to observe this occasion, look for public places where they can just hang around and have some fun, mostly just checking each other out. The newly opened Centaurus Mall was supposed to be one such place for the yearning-for-love singles, but the mall’s decision to only let ‘families’ in discouraged them. So, what was the mall exactly encouraging on Valentine’s Day? Family ties or couples?
If we want to have better gender behaviour in our society, then preventing interaction of the sexes is definitely not the way to go about it. Age restrictions are always better and effective to inculcate whatever we deem good habits rather than keeping men and women away from each other.
For the sake of St. Valentine’s, you have to let people mingle and let them meet each other if you want cupid to strike. It would have been better if the mall had announced that it was a couples-only weekend. At least, many sober guys wouldn’t have wasted time in the long cue. The mall’s decision is nothing but a reflection of confused mindset.
The writer is a broadcast journalist and tweets @waqasrafique