Ajay and Seema settled down at the icecream parlour with their grandchildren. Ajay was gallant and thoughtful. He even asked Seema if she wanted a sugar-free option.
Their “first date” was followed by a few furtive meetings at coffee shops and malls, thankfully without the grandchildren in tow. Giggling and feeling like a couple of teenagers, the two senior citizens felt young inside and it showed.
A couple of months passed by without either Seema or Ajay realising it. Both were very aware of the one thing they both needed to do but kept putting off. In a modern-day version of meet the parents, they would need to… meet the children!
They had talked over a lot of aspects by this time. How their future would be, how they wanted to live the rest of their life… but both knew they had amazing children who were not only caring and loving to their respective parents but also highly protective of them. This was neither conventional nor something that would be accepted without a lot of questions and concerns. Hopefully the conversations Seema and Ajay had over the past few months covered all of this. They finally felt ready to take on the children.
It was a Friday when both Ajay and Seema convinced their children (both had a son and a daughter each, and were currently living with their sons, taking care of their grandkids) to meet up at a resort for a weekend and spend some time together. Thankfully outings like these were regular events for both families and no one raised an eyebrow.
On Saturday night, Seema and Ajay spoke on the phone and shared their mutual excitement. While both feared their childrens’ reactions, they felt fairly confident that they had prepared themselves sufficiently as well.
Sunday morning dawned with a thousand hopes and dreams for both Seema and Ajay. Both families busied themselves getting the kids ready and preparing to leave for the resort bright and early. Ajay and Seema had recently discovered Whatsapp and were texting each other, keeping each other updated on the progress of the journey.
Ajay: So, what are you wearing?
Seema: What a silly question, of course a saree what else?
Seema: What’s that now?
Ajay: “Laughing out Loud”
Seema: Oh… MTLOL
Seema: Me Too Laughing out Loud
Ajay: OK darling, we need to have a conversation about chatspeak soon
Seema: Ok… darling
Seema felt her daughters’ gaze as she grinned at her phone and looked up. Abruptly the grin died on her face as she stuttered, “Someone sent me a joke” and kept the phone away for the rest of the drive.
Ajay conspired with the concierge at the resort to ensure their chalets were right next to each other. Both were pondering their next move when the tiny tots took the matter out of their hands. Seema’s grandson dragged Ajay and his grandkids into the chalet in a few hours, excitedly calling for his grandmother.
“Grandma come see who’s here, right next to us! Can we please play together? Please? Please?”
By now the rest of Seema’s family had come to the living room to see what the fuss and excitement was about. Seema decided to bite the bullet and held out her hand quite awkwardly and formally, “Mr. Ajay, what a coincidence! Nice to meet you here!”
Introductions followed and Ajay’s family were invited to join them for dinner that night. Both sets of children accepted this as a great coincidence and didn’t ask too many questions.
Soon, it was dinner time and both families got along wonderfully with each other. Seema and Ajay stole glances at each other all night, both basking in the joy of a love found at a time in life where they neither expected anything like this to happen. Behind the joy in their eyes though was the fear of how their children would react to this. What they wanted to do was not conventional and certainly not accepted in the society they lived in.
It was finally time for dessert. With the dinner rapidly drawing to a close, Ajay addressed this children casually, “Our current tenants in my flat in the city will come to the end of their lease in a couple of months. I’m thinking not to renew it any further or keep any new tenants. I’ll move in instead.”
Ajay’s son looked at him in sympathy, “Papa, I know you and Mom lived for the most part of your lives in that house. But we don’t think it’s safe for you to stay alone at this age.” He lowered his voice further and said to Ajay, “Besides, we have company right now. Can we have this conversation tomorrow maybe?”
Ajay looked at his son and the genuine worry etched on his face. He was proud of how both his children had turned out and the values he and Antara had managed to inculcate in them.
He smiled and said, “But I will not be alone. Actually, I’d like all of you to give me a few minutes to say something.” He addressed everyone including Seema’s family when he said this. Everyone was now more than a little curious at this. What could Ajay possibly have to say that required both families to listen? But they were all brought up to respect their elders and so, they remained politely silent and allowed him to speak his mind.
“I am talking on behalf of myself and another person now. A person who I’ve had the honour and privelege to develop a deep bond with. In a few short months, this person has become my friend, my confidante and I am hoping very soon, my wife.”
Ajay fished a simple ring out of his pocket and took Seema’s hand from across the table. “Seema, I’m past the point in my life where it’s safe to go down on one knee so I’ll hold your hand instead. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and give you all the joy and happiness of a companion that you deserve. I never thought I would say this to anyone else, but I say this with all my heart and soul. I love you Seema. Will you marry me?”
This time the polite children gasped. Without consulting each other, as if moved by a force more powerful than any one of them, all the ladies of the family rose as one and stood behind Seema. Each of them had a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Seema’s daughter finally understood the look on her mother’s face in the car as she bent down and whispered to her mom, “Ma, what are you waiting for? Please say yes!”
Seema looked at the ladies behind her and saw smiles and tears and joy. All for her! She looked around the table and was reassured by the smiling faces of everyone. Inexplicably, she even felt Sanjay’s presence as an array of mixed emotions washed over her. She allowed herself to be swept away. When she looked at Ajay, he knew what she would say before she said it.
Ajay’s heart was filled with joy. He came and stood near Seema, offering his hand which she took without hesitation. He gently kissed her forehead and gazed at her as if she would disappear any moment.
“I do have one condition” she whispered
“Anything” he whispered back
“Teach me chatspeak?” she whispered, like an excited child