Hmingthansanga, 25, took time-off from work to pick up his college-going girlfriend of two years Lalnunthangi and headed towards the annual “Blood for Your Valentine” celebrations in Aizawl on Friday.
“We love each other, and we want our love to be a blessing for others. That’s why we donated blood today,” Hmingthansanga explained as Lalnunthangi stood smiling by his side, a red rose in one hand.
The state government-supported “Blood for Your Valentine” event, held every Valentine’s Day across various district headquarters in Mizoram, has attracted sizable crowds of mostly couples since it was started by a local television personality, Zikpuii Pachuau, in 2010, the number of blood donors at the event having increased more than six-fold till date.
That first year, 146 people donated blood in honor of their lovers. The following year, 350, more than double the number of people compared to the first year, did the same. In 2012, 425 took part as the effort began to be spearheaded by the Association for Voluntary Blood Donation.
Last year, with the Mizoram State Aids Control Society taking part, the event went beyond state capital Aizawl and was organized across four district headquarters for the first time. As many as 757 units of blood were collected from as many people.
This year, 940 units of blood were collected at “Blood for your Valentine” venues across six of Mizoram’s eight districts where doctors and nurses from respective district hospitals as well as non-government hospitals oversaw the donation drive. In capital Aizawl, the event saw even politicians taking part, Parliamentary Secretary T T Zothansanga attending as Chief Guest.
Ironically enough, the annual event was inspired, in a manner of speaking, by right-wing groups in Bangalore. “I lived in Bangalore for three years till 2009, and there, right-wing groups used to ban Valentine’s Day celebrations. Almost all the young people would stay indoors because they were scared to go out because these groups threatened to beat up couples,” recalls Zikpuii.
“That’s when it struck me that organizing a blood donation event to celebrate Valentine’s Day would be a great tactic – no one would dare to ban a blood donation drive and couples would be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day in peace. And would it not be memorable donating blood, which symbolizes life, together with your lover? I pledged I would organize such an event as soon as I returned to Aizawl,” she said.
In 2010, Zikpuii made use of her friends in the music and entertainment industry, inviting local artists to an event she put together, promising them each one would get a red-rose in return – “I am obsessed with red-roses, and not getting one on Valentine’s Day is unthinkable for me,” she confesses.
Since then, “Blood for Your Valentine” has become a full-fledged celebration, with local singers and musicians performing at the event and entertainers of all hues acting mascots of sorts, welcoming couples and singles alike, conversing with them and posing for photos.
Rebecca Saimawii, a popular Mizo singer and public personality, has in fact set the record for Mizo women – she has donated 33 units of blood so far, and was present at Friday’s event as well.