When I was a kid, people in my village called that love symbol not as hati “heart”, but godhong waru “sea hibiscus leaf”. We usually shortened it to “waru” (read: wah-roo).

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“Look, he drew a waru on your book. It means he likes you!”

Waru. Hibiscus tiliaceus. The sea hibiscus, or whatever you call it.

Hibiscus_tiliaceus
By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0

I think the reason why we called it “waru” instead of “hati” is that we didn’t know how a heart looked like. The only thing that resembled the love symbol was waru leaf – we had a lot of waru trees.

I had heard the term “hati” used along with “waru”, but it wasn’t so popular. The people who said “hati” were those teenagers who listened to western songs and could speak English.

I could not.

I thought it was brutal to call the love symbol as a heart, because why would one likened something beautiful (not that I knew love) with an internal organ? It sounded like a surgeon trying to conduct a poetic surgery.

behold, heart and intestine..
soon thy will be mine

The trend changed when I was in junior high school. People began to use “hati” more often. I guess it’s because the number of waru trees decreased, and partly because that’s how NSync and BSB called it.

I found it hard to follow the trend. It sounded like one wanted to kill the other and took their heart away, literally. Then my English teacher explained the reason it was called “heart”. It was because heart meant life, she said. It was called “heart” because people considered love as life.

No, I still could not accept the goric term.

Every time my classmate said “my heart”, I cringed.

I cannot remember when I felt comfortable using “hati” for the first time. I suddenly found myself getting used to it.

To bid farewell to the once popular term, I think I’ll plant a lot of waru trees inside my heart.

Not literally.

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