08 March 2014

The first love is also the last, what do you say Hiran?

Yesterday my friend Hiran Kulatilake sent me a short note.  He wanted me to write about ‘first love’, about the pivithuru palamu pema or the pure first love and comment on the bihisuni bindunu pema the tragedy of a love that’s over.  

I tried to remember where I had first encountered the term ‘first love’ and realized that it had nothing to do with heart, heartbeat, heart-stop or heart-break.  Back then I had heard the word ‘love’ but had no idea about what it meant, its dimensions or nuances, its bliss and insanity and other things that make for music, poetry and silence.  I knew about boys and girls and something about the birds and bees but I think ‘first love’ didn’t make sense because the notion of a ‘second love’ or ‘subsequent loves’ seemed illogical.  It didn’t help that I was introduced to the term in less than romantic circumstances.

Someone told my father that a chess player had decided to retire.  This was back in the seventies when everyone was an amateur and no one made money out of chess unlike now when a third-rate coach would easily earn over 200,000 a month ‘teaching’ the children of gullible parents.  The retiree was a national player who at the time would have been around 16 or 17 years of age.  He had, apparently, decided to tread the path of renunciation and accordingly had decided to ‘give up his first love’, chess.  My father’s not-very-kind but prophetic response was ‘his first love is probably his underpants’.  The retiree came out of retirement a few months later and helped his school with the Inter-School Chess Championship on a couple of occasions.  I don’t know how fond he was of his underpants and even if he was whether he outgrew such attachments, but he did find ‘love’ outside of garments and games or so we have been made to understand. 

First of all there is the problem of definition.  It keeps changing. That which was thought to be the core constituent elements of ‘love’ when one is 15 are not what’s considered key later on.  Sometimes something is felt but remains undefined and it is only in retrospect that one might say ‘that was love’.  Sometimes that which was called ‘love’, looking back, makes us smile and/or cringe at our naiveté.  Then there is mis-naming. A lot of it.  That which one might now call ‘crush’ or ‘infatuation’ may very well have been all-consuming and generating of suicidal thoughts if feelings were thought to be unrequited.  The name you carved on anything and everything that was made for carving might not provoke a passing thought when encountered years after the stomach is cleansed of butterflies and the mind of the birthmark or dimple that was once thought to have been irresistible. 

I loved Ranjini Madugalle.  I still love her. I was 3 or 4 years old when I first met her.  Looking back I wonder if I asked for trouble with my peers so I could feel hurt, burst into tears and be duly embraced by her and held close for what seemed like centuries but what could not have been more than a few minutes.  When I remembered her out of the blue a few months ago, I referred to her as Ranjini Unamboowe.  When I saw her a few days later she looked just as she did in that first-love moment.  She had grown so much smaller over a period of 40 years and although I held her in my arms for a moment, it was as though she was cradling me.  I fell on my knees and worshipped her.  She is still 20 years older than I and still as beautiful as she was 40 years ago.  That first love was pure beyond description. Still is, I discovered, 40 years of later; i.e. four decades made up of other heart-stops, pure-loves, heart-breaks of the bihisunu as well as the bitter kind, some forgotten, some forgettable and some remembered with nostalgia but not regret. 

Then there is the kiri-suwanda love of mother’s milk fragrance that will accompany me to forgetting or grave, whichever comes first.  That’s a first-love too.  The first relationship is remembered for awkwardness, misnaming and disaster.  The first love letter is remembered and so too the discovery that the world does not contain enough metaphors to turn heart-feel into word. The first kiss too.  Then there are those other ‘loves’ which makes one ask ‘what was that earlier thing about?’ and answer thus: ‘whatever it was it is not love’.  

When Hiran made that request, my initial response was ‘every love is a first-time thing, isn’t it?’  We think it is forever and it is indeed beautiful if something lasts until the natural order of things whisk one or the other away and the one remaining is left wondering what ‘forever’ really means.  I don’t want to scar the romantic notions that anyone might indulge in.  Love inspired a few lines not too long after Hiran handed me this project proposal.

Forever begins
with heart-stop,
a virginal rebirthing
and umbilical dissolve
that separates and erases
all illusion
of heart, touch and things misnamed.
Forever never ends, though;
it just gets lost in the Alzheimeic plains
of reason and other encounters.

The first love is also the last, I think. 

P.S: This was published in the ‘Daily News’ in March 2011.  Three years after having written the above, I think I got it wrong.  I think I should have ended it with the following: ‘The last love is also the first, I think and yet I cannot forget the love of that three year old boy, 40 years ago.’



Anonymous said...

Love and women are such subjective subjects.
“I asked her if she believed in love, and she smiled and said it was her most elaborate method of self-harm.”― Benedict Smith
"My friend, I despise women to avoid loving them because otherwise, life would become too ridiculous a melodrama." -A Hero of Our Time

Anonymous said...

You have made it right after three years ."The last love is also the first " . written beautifully....:)

Anonymous said...

Love ,its unique .So always first is first and also last is the first .Again new love is the first .