As easy as falling off your horse | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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As easy as falling off your horse

It’s the Delhi Horse Show Gymkhana today and a little boy I know will take part in the stick-and-ball event with the other children, on his favourite pony. Best of luck, kiddies, have a lovely day.

art and culture Updated: Apr 03, 2011 02:06 IST

It’s the Delhi Horse Show Gymkhana today and a little boy I know will take part in the stick-and-ball event with the other children, on his favourite pony. Best of luck, kiddies, have a lovely day.

As to which, here’s a tiny chicken-soupish story. In my inept riding days I was stupid enough to put my horse on the honour system, that being a supposedly better class of animal, he would appreciate that there was a softie on his back and have the good instinct to cooperate. But this flowerchild approach didn’t work. The ablak (piebald) I rode had my measure quite soon and began to play up. I had a battle of wills every day with him. One morning he stalled under a tree and wouldn’t budge. My ruff’n’tuff instructor barked that he needed the chabuk (whip) and I should stand in my stirrups to break off a stick from the tree above.

The moment I stood up, the ablak took off. I came down with a hard thump and tumbled to the ground, luckily footfree. They brought him back and I scrambled on, teeth clicking like castanets, to finish the ride.

If there’s some spiritual lesson that hit me then it was that I had to go back as usual next morning at 6 am, vile hour. With a passing blink at English poet AE Housman’s outrageous suggestion that ‘malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s way to man’, I submit that sheer cussedness is a personal chabuk. It’s not even about proving a point to others. People come and go in life. The ones you’re with today may never cross your path again. But guess who stays with you? You, that’s who.

So it seems to be about showing up yet again for your life no matter what. You could stick with the honour system (“to thine own self be true” and all that) but be ready then to fall off your horse with annoying regularity. We could however try ‘evolving’ a bit to cope. I took the ablak a carrot next morning. Instead of the stick, get it? Like Chanakya says, ‘saama, daana, bheda, danda’. Conciliation, gifts, sowing discord, violence, in that descending moral order. Only when the first three fail, resort to the stick to disarm your opponent. Not as easy as falling off your horse? But goodness, you’d be bucking for sainthood.

(Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture.)