I had no idea what it even meant in 1997. I was about to leave for the States and my cousin, a geek, asked me for my email id. After a considerable amount of time had passed and no words came out of my mouth, he realised that I didn't have one, and worse, didn't even know what that meant! He created one for me and that was my (free!) connection to the world I was leaving behind. It didn't take long to acclamatise to its nuances, bugs etc and I couldn't imagine life without it.
Over the years, hotmail has gone through numerous changes - acquired by Microsoft, display colours, storage capacity, tools and many more cool things. As hotmail evolved, so did other email providers that started offering bigger and better things. To keep up with friends and trends, I acquired ids in several different services but predominantly used only hotmail. Was it the comfort if offered like an old friend or was it just that most people had that id and mailed me at that (cc'ing the other new and improved id, of course!)? Even now, I can't imagine not checking my hotmail at least once a day. All my old mail is archived in there and though I don't have the time to read through it, I know that it is there. I may not get any important messages in it, but like a first crush, a first kiss or a first love, it was my first email id and its for keeps.