My First Love by Ruskin Bond
In My First Love by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of love, beauty, connection, freedom, letting go and innocence. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story itself is a memory piece which is narrated in the first person by an unnamed man. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that though the narrator considers Ayah to be beautiful. Nobody else does. This could be significant as Bond may be suggesting that for the narrator his love goes beyond natural or physical beauty. Ayah after all does a lot for the narrator even if she does beat him (and regrets it) occasionally. Either way there is a strong bond or connection between Ayah and the narrator. Something that is clearer at the end of the story by the way the narrator reacts to Ayah’s departure. He is desperate for her to stay with him such is the attachment he feels towards her. If anything Ayah appears to be the narrator’s only friend and the most influential person in his life. It is for this reason that the narrator may have fallen in love with Ayah. It is also possible that the narrator did not get any type of love from his mother. She does after all refuse to take him to the other houses in the town. It is as though he may be problematic. Something which is natural for most six year old boys.
Ayah also affords the narrator a degree of freedom which his parents don’t allow him to have. This is noticeable when he is eating the paan. Before his parents arrive home Ayah makes sure there is no evidence of the narrator having eaten the paan. If anything the narrator is allowed to explore his youth and is not held back by Ayah. She even takes him on the tonga rides with Bansi Lal which is interesting as the narrator is too young to understand that the reason he is allowed to wander so far from both Ayah and Bansi Lal is because they wish to be alone. This never dawns on the narrator and suggests just how innocent he may be. Also the story about the snake being a prince fools the narrator even though it is totally illogical (like a lot of fairy tales). The narrator is just happy to learn from Ayah and to be close to her as much as he can be. Going as far as telling Ayah that she must bathe with him. This may be important as it suggests to the reader just how strong the bond is between the narrator and Ayah.
Thanks to his father’s position the narrator lives a protected life. He has his own nanny and is afforded as much freedom as he likes under Ayah’s care. Though it is noticeable that she feels guilty when she hits the narrator and tries her best to smother him in her arms and to kiss him as often as she can. Though this might be confusing for some. The narrator is pleased with all the attention he gets from Ayah as it is a sign to him that Ayah loves him as much as he loves her. Despite the clear and obvious age gap and the fact that Ayah in reality as an adult sees the relationship as being something different. If anything the reader senses that the narrator would be happy to marry Ayah when he is older. No matter how impractical that might actually be. Though Ayah may have stepped over a line by hitting the narrator she still nonetheless is wise enough to realise that any type of relationship further than looking after the narrator as a child is impossible. Also she loves and intends to marry Bansi Lal.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that the narrator by hiding from Ayah is finding it difficult to let her go. He wants her to stay and cannot understand why she must leave. For the first time in his life the narrator is facing a problem that concerns adults and he is not qualified to judge the situation. However after some time the narrator does run after the tonga and hugs Ayah and says goodbye to her. It might also be important that the narrator, despite the passing of time, has never forgotten the impact that Ayah had on him. For the narrator Ayah will always remain his first love and the memories he has of her are happy ones. Ayah allowed for the narrator to live his life as free as she was able to. Taught him fairy tales and included him in her courtship with Bansi Lal. In reality Ayah was always there for the narrator and he hasn’t forgotten this.