1990 or 1991, could be 1992-93 also. Well, who gives a damn!
I was in pre-school when I met her for the first time. No, I don’t think it was love at first sight. That’s rather difficult when both the sighting parties are 4 years old. What I do remember is that she was always special in some way; we had these…connections beyond sharing the same classroom. For starters, we were the 3rd generations of our respective families to be friends with each other. My grandfather and hers were colleagues in the Railway. And her mom’s family, before she got married to her dad, rented a couple of rooms in the same dilapidated building that my grandparents did. Some coincidence, huh? Anyways, if you have half a brain, I have already explained the 2nd generation of friendship. Her mom and my dad grew up together, along with 6 other brothers and sisters of theirs. By the time we were born, the families had shifted to two different houses, but they remained in touch.
The schooldays were fun. They always are. We shared the same rickshaw to and from school. We used to play together. No, we didn’t kiss each other while in Class I. To tell you the truth, I don’t much clearly remember what happened there. And I certainly don’t remember being or falling in love. All that remains intact from that period is a moment frozen in time, a mental snapshot, if you will. I can still see it whenever I close my eyes. We were on the school grounds, playing one those stupid games children play. I can see the green field, a corner of the red school building, the eucalyptus trees at a distance lining the boundary of the campus, and this girl running away from me. She’s not moving, nothing is. But I can tell she’s running from the way she’s leaning forward, her legs bent at a fluid, graceful angle, her red skirt flying in the wind. She is looking back over her shoulder, at me, and she’s laughing, a frank, happy and joyful laugh. It remains, despite 20 odd years and everything that has happened between us, my most cherished memory of her: The cute little girl in the cute red skirt, who laughed at me and ran away, so that I would come and catch her.