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They called it the kiss of love. But where was the kiss?
When Narayanaswamy came to work for me six years ago, he was a boy from the nearby village. He had been an animal ambulance driver and handled different kinds of beasts. But he had never had to drive a creature like me around, his expression said two days after he joined work.
That afternoon I was meeting a long time friend at Koshy’s. Over lunch my friend said that he still hadn’t mastered the art of social kissing. I said he was never going to perfect it till he did it standing on St. Mark’s Road with the casual ease of the socially adept air kisser. So there we were, my flushed-in-the-face friend and I, with my hand on his shoulder so I could gauge the 2 cm distance between my mouth and his cheek. But when I saw Narayanaswamy’s eyes drop in embarrassment, a devilish glee entered me and instead of kissing the air I plumped my lips to deliver two fat kisses on my friend’s cheeks, and he thinking, that was the norm, did the same.
I don’t think the earth moved, but I have been told they could hear it as far as Infantry Road. What’s more, no one called the cavalry out. The friend went his way, and half a second later another came bicycling. Someone I hadn’t seen in many years. So there I was flinging my arms around another man and smacking him on his cheeks as well.
I think Narayanaswamy became a man of the world that day.
When the kiss of love protest was announced in Kerala, an MP, Rajesh MB and an MLA VT Balaram, both from opposing parties, championed it. They weren’t condoning the form of protest as much as the right of individuals to exercise their personal freedom. That it stirred up a hornet’s nest is putting it mildly.
A friend of mine told me in disapproving tones, “If a couple kiss in public, how do I explain it to my children?”
“What would you do if you lived in London, for instance, and they saw a couple kissing?” I retorted
He frowned, shrugged and snapped, “We are not living in London.”
It is exactly this uptight moral fervour, this blinkered vision that makes me want to pull out my hair and say, “It is only a damn kiss. What harm does it do?”
Or to stand in a speaker’s corner if we had one and declaim , “ As Christopher Marlowe said - Make me immortal with a kiss!”
We seem to be able to accept without blanching the elderly and children in rags begging on the streets. We are quite unruffled at the thought of rapists and paedophiles living amidst us. We accept corruption as a way of life. Every day we are subject to the objectification of women in tv commercials and feature films. Anywhere you go in India we see men men peeing in public and don’t even find it offensive. So why does a physical demonstration of affection, love or even lust affect us so? It is the natural to kiss if you have a mouth. Even fish, ‘legless, unloving and infamously chaste’ kiss, so why not a man and woman? Or a man and man? Or a woman and woman?
Which is why I don’t get this fuss about the kiss of love? Why are the police, moral and executive, getting their knickers into a twist about people pecking each others’ cheeks? As for you, kiss of love kissers, open your mouth, stick your tongue in and play some tonsil hockey. Give the uncles and aunties real reason to google chastity belts or at least lose their breakfasts on their prudish toes! Just do it...
- Published in The Economic Times November 2014
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