Sudha madhuri dash is a published author of many novels. Along with photography she loves horse riding and practices odissi dance.
The love for horses continues
My grandmother instilled in me, the love for riding in my heart
My name is Sudha Madhuri and I was named after two long forgotten ancestors, (my two grandmothers to be accurate) both came from some small-time unknown royal families of Bihar, in fact they had fought to the extent of gun points, while deciding after whom I was to be named. My father the educated one in the family cleverly saved my neck.
I was named after the two great ladies of our family. Both of them were very different from each other by nature and by carriage. My maternal grandmother was tall, handsome and loved using her gun more than her mouth. While my paternal grandmother was petite, extremely beautiful with large doe like eyes. I have no idea about their education but as far as I know both could play the piano and speak a bit of English but had no formal education of any kind.
When the British left India, my claim to any kind-of-royalty fizzled out. I remember, my maternal grandmother being feared and respected by one-and- all in the village. I lived with her on a farm with a hundred-odd heads of cows and buffaloes...along with a few smattering numbers of chickens and goats. Very early in life, I learnt to saddle up and take my favourite ride out for a spin through our fields and lone stretches of mud track that ran through the scrub jungle bordering our village.
I am proud to say that my humble beginnings taught me to be tough and versatile; we always had a lot of milk, butter and ghee floating around in the house. My grandmother was strict about my diet and a tall glass of piping hot milk with a dollop of ghee floating on top, was the order of the day. I was strong; mind you...but not fat. I could wrestle down a heifer for branding or milk the cows six in a row...such activities were a normal part of my developing years.
My parents never had any time for me hence; my grandmother adopted me. I grew up with the strong bearings of a village girl...fearless and honest who knew her own mind. Life in the village was rare...we girls would look forward to the visits of the simple novelties from the nearby town. To name a few, the ice-cream-wala, then there was this other fellow who sold trinkets and bangles in exchange of old rubber chappals and then of course the churan guy...I would often barter coconuts or a glass or two of butter-milk for that ultimate mouth-watering delight...even to this day, my mouth waters with the thought of that dark, stinky fantasy called churan.
Once I had bartered away, all the rubber chappals of the workers on our farm, in exchange I got small plastic dolls. I made all my friends happy but my derriere became very unhappy and tender to touch, my grandmother took the cane to me. Such frequent reinforcements hardly ever dampened my enthusiasm for doing what my heart wanted. Making my friends happy gave me a lot of happiness. Most of my friends lived in the nearby hutments and came from underprivileged families. I still value their friendship and make it a point to go and meet them whenever I go to the village.
My maternal grandmother kept a few donkeys on the farm. Donkeys are hardworking animals and are very loyal to their owners. Whenever my grandmother would call out to them they would answer back to her. My first taste of riding was on Bholu. He was big and extremely plump. He loved to eat and had even once eaten the rubber chappals of the local electrician. A small saddle was fitted on his back and off I went.
Whatever intentions Bholu had, I do not know but he ran as if someone had set his tail on fire. I squealed in delight and the moment I squealed he would run faster. I learnt to balance and trot and gallop. My grandmother approved and patted my head of unruly curls saying that like her, I was a natural.
As I was saying earlier, I was born to ride...”Bimpi is born to the saddle,” my grandmother would say (Bimpi is my nickname). On my fourth birthday, my grandmother gifted me...Barnacles. He resembled a fat dollop of black bean paste. It was love at first sight for both of us. As I grew older...my stead too grew up, touching a towering sixteen-hands-of -height, he was a handsome fellow that rocked the hearts of all the girls on our farm. ‘Barnacles’ grew into a massive buffalo with huge horns that curved like two spears that turned upside and pointed outwards.
We all would make that hour long journey through the scrub jungle for that ultimate experience in life...the golgappas (fried and puffed balls rolled out of dough of flour). Even the pack-of-hyenas that were known to hunt in that part of jungle did not dampen our spirits. Everyone knew Barnacles and they were afraid of him. The small town of Cuttack lay beyond the scrub jungle. Its quaint gas-lit street lights always turned a bit brighter with the arrival of the golgappa guy.
Golgappas are small and round puffs that are filled with spicy potatoes, mint chutney and chopped onions. These delicate puffs are then dipped into a tumbler full of chatpata-tamarind water. It was heavenly...munching upon one of these. The puffs burst in our mouth giving an instant Viagra kick. These delicate balls burned down our throats, making us whistle and blow. Then afterwards when the chatpata tamarind water hit our stomach, it set our innards on fire.
Barnacles, would stand patiently, waiting...as I would pop a few of these burning balls-of-fire into his mouth...he would chuckle and relish them...salivating on the heat...then shaking his huge head, would ask for more.
I was now a tall, gangly lady of twelve and my grandmother surprised me with a horse (a real horse) on my birthday. I looked heaven wards and thanked the almighty. Though I never left Barnacles I would always ride him into the river for a dip during the summer. This way we kept each other company and he kept me safe from the lone gharial (a kind of crocodile with a long snout) that lived in it. Though gharials are fish eaters but they are quite mischievous creatures and have been known to take bits and pieces off swimmers.
From a donkey to a water buffalo to a real horse was quite a big graduation for me. The first ropes of riding I learnt from my grandmother, how to treat a pet with kindness, feel its pain and to be a considerate rider? She would say, “feel his heart and feel yours…they are the same.”
Now twenty years later…I am still learning on the saddle and have passed what I had learnt to my two girls. They have also inherited the best of both my grandmothers. My elder girl is tall and petite and strong by character while the younger one is courageous and will be not so tall but her large doe like eyes reminds me of someone.
Both are born to the saddle, as my grandmother would have said. Both are in love with horses and have developed this madness to ride like me. I started riding with my grandmother and with my girls it has come a full circle…but I want this circle to continue for this madness is good and all of us should develop such madness’s in our lives. Don’t you think so?
Wear proper riding boots and helmet
Wearing a good helmet is of great importance. It protects your nut in case of a fall. There are two types of helmets. The normal riding helmet and a smaller one for jumping. Riding boots can be the beginners boots made of rubber. The leather boots are more expensive and can be taken once the child is into serious riding.
The love of a horse can change your world
© 2022 sudha madhuri dash