LAHORE:As Spring blossoms, a vast colour palette in blooming flowers is seen splashed around in parks and gardens. Red, yellow, white, purple, and pink are only some of the colours that have enhanced peaceful sceneries of green grass, lifting the mood from tranquil to vivacious. But gardens are not the only places where blooming flowers are to be seen.As Valentine’s Day approaches, florists are placing more and more orders for flowers to be supplied soon enough, while even the most eager of all lovers are bracing themselves for a rise in prices. Even in shopping malls and gift stores, the décor has now gradually begun to change. Plain store windows are now filled with dark red hearts, hanging from the ceiling or stuck onto the glass.Some are stuffed cushions, with smiley faces on them. Others are more serious, smaller in size so that they can be kept secretly inside a drawer or stuck somewhere in the room. Others come edged with frills and laces, while heart shaped jewelry boxes, red envelopes, red wrapping paper and cards carrying message of love and romance greet the eyes right at the shop’s entrance.“Gift shops are perhaps the best places that you can find something good to give,” says Ayesha Ali, who is at one of the shops trying to figure out what she wants to buy.“The reason is that there is a large variety of things to buy, and some are quite nice for a reasonable price too,” she says. Even boys are seen around malls, keeping up pretenses in looking casual as they sift through romantic gifts for their girlfriends. “If I am seen here by any of my friends, they will never stop teasing me about it,” laughs Adnan. “But I have to get a gift for her and so I have brought my sister along,” she says. He says despite the fact that men do not want to be seen buying Valentine gifts, many of them cannot escape the Valentine fever.Red tinsel and streamers decorate mall corridors and even book shops have not stayed behind in keeping pace with the mood. New arrivals of authors like Danielle Steele and other small gift books of love and romance have started to collect on shelves, so that book lovers can buy their gifts beforehand.Even book stores are decorated with red tinsels to attract customers for Valentine’s Day. But many plan on something which cannot be bought off the shelf. “I’m not planning to get a box of chocolates or anything like that. A romantic dinner at your favourite place is probably the best thing on Valentine’s Day, without being too sappy,” Ali says.
Apart from flowers, perhaps the next most gifted item is chocolates.Stores that specialise only in chocolates are expected to be the most popular. Lal’s for instance is one such place, which is a regular hit for any such occasion, be it Eid, Christmas, and now Valentine’s. For a more exotic taste, there is Bateel’s in both Mall of Lahore and the Pearl Continental Hotel, where people can get chocolate covered dates.“But then these are gifts for those who can afford it within their budget, since Bateel’s in infamously expensive,” says Aamna, who is also planning on giving chocolates as a gift. “I won’t go for this, I will just get something really simple, like an imported bar of chocolate, or a bag full of MnMs,” she says. Gift and flower prices are intended to rise as days go by. A florist in Gulberg says that prices usually rise after tenth of the month.“Roses are the most expensive,” he says. “There are other flowers like lilies and gladiola that are sold a stem for Rs 250 per stem or so, whose price will eventually double. But there are some others whose prices will only rise for Rs 50,” he says.The florist says that the most common flowers sold for Valentine’s Day besides roses are lilies, chrysanthemums, and a mixed bouquet of everything included. Some people also prefer tube roses among velvety red roses to disperse the colour a bit – PT