Tollygunge, 2001. Another humid June night, the air heavy in nostalgia. We sit on the front porch, doors open in an effort to dispel the oppressive heat inside the house. I type away some half-hearted poem, and while the blue glare of the screen stares at me with harrowing emptiness, I notice Dadu slowly close the door behind him, oblivious to me. His eyes are trained upon Dida, who was waving off to the guests while locking the gate, and looks at the moon, sighing.

“She isn’t running away, you know,” I scoff good-naturedly, “you love her too much.” We hear Dida’s heavy trudge, as she climbed up the stairs while mumbling in a mocking voice, “I’d say, it’s the opposite.” They share a guffaw, as Dida wipes her hands on her faded apron, taking a seat beside me on the railing. “Oooh story time!” I exclaim, looking at Dida with twinkling eyes, in rapt attention, folding my legs and cupping my jaw in the palm, a wide smile framing my face.

“Was he the first man?” I ask, my shaky voice barely concealing my excitement. “Ahh, no,” Dida shakes her head, “he was the friend of the man I was head over heels in love with,” she completes, throwing a mischievous smile in Dadu’s direction. “Oh no,” I exclaim, in surprise and amusement. “Isn’t that against bro code?” I blurt, my gen-z vocabulary taking hold of me momentarily. “Wait, what is this bro code?” Dadu asks quizzically. “It means you can’t date your friend’s girlfriend,” I explain to him jokingly.

“We didn’t really feel it was wrong or something,” Dadu tries to explain himself innocently, his glazed eyes trained into the distance as if lost in some other world. “You see Ninu,” he looks back at me, “our generation had romanticised love too much. You had to wait for your lover for years. You had to keep loving someone even when you know they aren’t the right person for you. But I’ll tell you,” he pauses to catch a breath, and looks at Dida, eminent love flashing on his cataract white irises. “You don’t ‘have’ to do anything. You do you. Love finds you nevertheless,” he shrugs, taking Dida’s hand, his larger, rough thumb stroking gentle circles on her smaller, frail top of her palm.

I smile a reflective smile on their reminiscence,  glancing outside. Everything’s quiet, as if the Universe is keen on learning something new about this humane emotion, as ever evolving as humans themselves. Our grandparents sit together, remembering of their days of youth, smiles sketched on their faces that showing glimpses of them as young lovers. They’re the testament to love itself. Are they afraid of what’s to come, I ponder. What would it be like to lose the person you’ve loved, to continue existing with an omnipresent blank by your side? Do they count their days of togetherness, so that they’d be able to hold onto these in the absence of the other? I do not voice these never-ending questions. Instead, I look at their twinkling eyes, reminding me of stars in the dark firmament, with a smile and a sigh.