Did my grandparents ever hold hands?
I have a friend, whose grandparents met at a ballet class. They met in the India of the 1960s when ballet wasn’t commonplace and grandparents who had taken such classes, unheard of. During school lunch breaks, she’d tell me how they fell in love over their first dance and kissed in the dance studio. We would giggle. (Years later, I attended their golden jubilee anniversary celebrations and I saw them kiss, it was a big deal for me.) It was a story straight out of a fairytale book (unconventional for the times) and whilst it was beautiful, it made me upset too. For, I had never seen my grandparents kiss (it was a big deal for me, again). And I was not alone. Another classmate of ours happened to watch her grandpa extend his hand to help her granny walk up the stairs; she was so delighted with this display of intimacy that she enacted the scene for us, many times.
As a little girl, I was reading enough on the kiss shared between the prince and the princess. Fairy tales ended with a ‘they-lived-happily-ever-after’ kiss. I was convinced that kissing was the defining expression of love. Hence, quite early (and dangerously) it led me to believe that one: I knew a lot about love and two: the tale of my grandparents wasn’t fairytale material. Except that I was wrong on both fronts. Often, I debated with myself. I spent days ‘decoding’ their love. I’d seen grandpa plant a kiss on mum’s forehead (as we bid them goodbye after our stay at their home), as I’d wait for my turn. Granny was far more generous — she didn’t wait for an excuse or right moment to tell us she loved us (with a kiss). ‘They never kiss each other, they don’t love each other enough’ — the thought troubled me more than it should have.
It took years of growing up to know and understand that they were in love and shared a beautiful life. I’ll leave that tale for another day. But then, I do regret that I never saw them kiss. It had a lot to do with the times and the part of the world we lived in. Which explains how I picked on a hobby: Ogling at old couples in love. It’s my guilty pleasure. At airport lounges, I place myself at spots where I can watch an old man get his wife a cup of tea, or watch the woman stir sugar in her husband’s teacup.
I am convinced there is nothing prettier than the combination of kisses and wrinkles. While I’ve had a chance to learn and unlearn about kisses, love, marriages, and couples, I hold one thought close to me. I believe that a world where grandparents express their love for one another would be a wonderful place to live in. And perhaps, there will be someone (like yours truly) who will watch them secretly and dream of carving a love story.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.