T.S.Eliot once wrote that the progress of an artist is a progress from self expression to self-extinction. More or less the same things happen with a lover too. The beloved soon takes precedence over his own choices and preferences, in short his own life. The first time I fell in love at eight with a girl, I couldn’t understand what was happening. I was beside myself in joy. One enormous desire that held me under its thrall whenever she was present before me was to hug her all the time. May be I was hugging her almost fifty times a day. Those hugs were not the least like the ones the adults do. Each time I hugged her I lifted her off her feet clasping her very tight to my chest. Each such hug lasted as long as I could bear her weight and lift her off the ground and I yielded only to the gravity and no other considerations like society or who else saw us ever entered my mind. At this age, while writing this, I take an indulgent view over the weird hugging behavior of that love-struck boy and a question comes to my mind to ask, did he ever ask permission of the girl like “May I lift you up on my chest or may I hug you?’ But I know the reply, those questions were never asked. Intuitively I knew that it was O.k. to hug. She never protested but surprised she certainly was initially. May be probably none had lavished so much attention, so much hugging and lifting her. As for me it appeared as if my heart would burst if I didn’t hug and lift her. I was under the sway of a powerful emotion the like of which I had never experienced before.

The wonder of wonder was that the two of us were never alone, nor did we seek to be alone ever, it was always a three some. Runu, it was her name, was a friend of a cousin named Minu. Minu, my cousin, used to come to our village to visit her grandma every year and whenever she came she used to make calls on us too. As I was of the same age as her she always sought me out to play with her. Though I liked to play with her and show her around our village as she was like a migratory bird who didn’t stay long, I didn’t have a very great love for her. On one of her annual visits she brought with her Runu, a friend of her from her village and she made such a dramatic entry into my life that I shall never be able to forget her. It was Runu who made me come to terms with an emotion I had never thought to be there in me in such abundance. It was love. Some may call it puppy love but to me it was as real as any love I was to experience later in my adult life, not even a jot different. It was a love at first sight. Today howsoever hard I try to recollect I cannot recall a word that passed between us and even I cannot recollect whether she was beautiful or not. Nor I can recollect the color of her skin, the tone of her voice or how she looked when she laughed. As if all these were completely irrelevant and extraneous to loving. As if what one loves in the other is utterly indefinable and only some foolish/clever adults try to locate it where it resides to no avail. All I can remember are her surprised eyes as I hugged her and lifted her off her feet at all hours of the day. Minu was a constant companion and I clearly recollect her amused look at my shenanigans with her friend. I never hugged Minu even once and so my effusive demonstration of love to her friend must have been a riddle to her. It was a riddle to me also and I think to Runu too. Only It was beyond doubt that Runu and I loved to be together.

We wandered far away from home picking berries and flowers. We walked down the river that flowed beside our village. We loved running errands for Minu’s grandma. Minu’s grandma and my grandma were two sisters. Mine I had never seen, she had died before I was even born. So practically Minu’s grandma was like my grandma too. Granny was a widow by then. Whenever she needed something to be bought from the village shop we volunteered to buy that for her. We loved doing anything that would keep us away from home and won’t separate one from the others. On such outings I would never let Runu walk, I would carry her sometimes by clasping her front to front and lift her and march on and when she became too heavy after some time I carried her on my back. She never protested even once. Minu never ceased to cast her amused glance at us, but she said nothing nor she took off her eyes away from us nor she acted unseeing and ignorant. From my present adult view point, I wish I had hugged at least a couple of times to Minu also but playing that kind of politics was beyond the thinking of that love-struck boy of eight. I don’t think I ever kissed Runu because that was not part of the gestures one showed while in love, at least it never came to my mind. May be I had never seen anyone kissing. I was simply engaged in a one-point task only, how not to suffocate under a powerful current of emotion from which the only relief and freedom was to clasp on to Runu and be one with her at any cost. As long as she stayed in our village, I think it was less than a week, from morning to evening we were inseparable.

Wordsworth said that the child is the father of man. How true! That child of eight in me has never died. Though Runu and myself were never to meet again in life thereafter, yet she will remain immortal in my heart till I live. She brought out the lover in me to full play but how and with what means I can never know or tell. In fact if I knew I would have loved to tell you, my friends, everything here. What words she employed, what smiles and gestures or what else she bestowed on me I would never know because all those are blank in my memory. At least I can certainly say she never clasped me to her heart nor tried to lift me off my feet even once on her own accord. She only yielded to my passionate hugging, may be as one surrenders to a symphony or as one surrenders to a passing tornado. Yet she conquered me so completely that I was willing to be her slave for the rest of my life hadn’t a wiser and brainier adult world in its wisdom and farsightedness (?) sent me to schools, colleges and boarding houses and hostels for the next two decades at the end of which I was deRunued so completely that she became just a memory to me. If it sometimes wrenches my heart so violently that it pains me and wakes me up from sleep in the middle of nights, at least no one else is disturbed in his/her sleep due to it. Then I sit on my bed and pray to God to give me strength and endurance to make my self- extinction complete, as I had so many times wanted both to be a lover and an artist.

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