I would fantasize myself riding on a galloping horse at a terrific speed and vanishing over the horizon in my childhood.
The fancy of heroic horse riding crafted its hazy shape within me by watching the Bollywood movies where Amitabh Bachchan and many other superhuman actors ride horses to chase the villains to knock them down flat. Or to allure (or to elope with) their beautifully scripted female counterparts.
Opposing this childhood fantasy, I have ridden on horseback twice in my entire real life, including the recent one in the foothill of the Rockies in Canada. I must admit that my flight of imagination to ride horses remains an unsung dream forever with this secret revealed.
The first time when I rode a horse was some 24 years ago. I was a student-teacher in a high school in a hilly village in Nepal then. Namely, it was Karfok, Ilam, Nepal.
One weekend morning, I came across that one of my students was riding a horse and heading towards a local grocery store stationed on the head of a hillock. The roadway was graveled and unpaved. The hill-wall itself fenced the right side of the road and the left side was open into the air. Some small seasonal landslides were here and there along the road, even the swept away edge of the road at some points along.
I was walking uphill, intending to get a cup of tea in the local tea shop on my own. My two roommates were still enjoying their weekend late morning sleep.
The horse owner student was alone too. The place itself was lonely wood out of nowhere, a mile away from the nearest human residence.
There came a well-fed rural horse in between us. I told my student about my interest in riding his horse. In rural Nepal, teachers get a lofty deal of reverences. Our classic scriptures teach us the value of treating teachers as God.
In no blinks of eyes, he got off his horse and offered his seat to me. I found myself lost then. I couldn’t figure out if I were joking with him or wanted to jump up onto the back of his horse for real. I remained nonplussed. He pushed me to get on; he egged me on to try and enjoy.
My dad always warned me not to go too close behind horses if seen any. As of his talking-to, if the horse gets angry, it kicks people off with both of his powerful legs and one would not even get a slim chance of asking for a sip of water before one departs this life at the scene. Going close to a horse and get a kick enough to go to meet my maker in heaven? That was a graphic and disturbing warning for a child of my age then!
“Doesn’t it kick me off or bring me under its belly? Or, throw me off her back into the gorge of the nearby landslide?” I asked my student. He was standing beside me, displaying a steadfast loyalty towards my will to ride.
My dad’s life-threatening caution about the horse kick was buzzing my ears then.
Shooting a round of giggling laughter and maybe judging me as a coward teacher, my horse-trained ranch-boy student was taking things very easy. His calm body language was telling that riding a horse was nothing but a matter of finger-snapping like an easy job.
I felt like exhibiting myself as a teacher without a spine could not be a choice. I got the reins in my hand and climbed up. The horse moved her way ahead. The student left behind and remained out of my sight as the horse took a bend on the road.
The horse kept going. I started panicking now. How long should I go like this and up to where? How should I stop the horse? What if the local people and other students in the village saw me and noticed me struggling to get down on the earth? What if the horse knocks me down as soon as I step on the ground in the fashion of my dad’s account? Tons of spine-paralyzing questions erupted out of my pale face, pounding heart, and shivering legs. The horse kept cutting the way shorter indifferently as though she does not care much about the human world but keeps her duty intact to go miles away.
Riding, possibly about 15 minutes away from the student, arrived at the end of the road, the top of the hill called Kalapani, a small rustic marketplace. I saw cars and public transit buses driving past on the black paved highway passing nearby. In rural Nepal, milk barrels carrying horse caravans were making to the trading post on the road to the finish line.
People were already clogging around the local tea shop. Puffs of smoke from the smoking mouths were rising here and there and fading out into the air. People and peasants from rural Nepal were leaving the grocery store with bags on their backs and sides.
My horse arrived in the middle of the yard right in front of the store. People stared at me, a stranger on horseback.
I wanted to get off the horse but was not helping myself dare to. Fueling my frightened heart up, the horse made jerky coordination move to slow down and stop her walk. Somehow, I managed to jump off and make a life-saving dash away from the horse, leaving her free.
I was the core of public attention there now. People were gazing at me with their astonishedly opening eyes and trying to figure out who I was and what drama I was doing there. I was embarrassed. I was running away from the horse, abiding by my dad’s safety tips to deal with a horse. I wanted to stay away from a horse as dangerous as to take away one’s life in a second by a pair of kicks!
Securing myself on a bit of elevated earth away from the horse, I turned back to see the horse. She was already enjoying her meal of the day, grazing carelessly on the roadside.
A Japanese proverb says, “Fear blows wind into your sails.” This proverb suggests that fear adds more wind on the sail to triple the boat while sailing on the sea. That was precisely applying to me then. The actual horse was not kicking me off, she was all nice and friendly, but the fear was badly bringing me under the horse belly.
My student arrived and got the command of the horse in his hands. People asked him who I was, and he answered.
Now, I didn’t have any business to stay there but to be a point of people’s attention for nothing. All I did was walked back alone to my rented room, about 25 minutes straight downhill.
My two roommates, my cousin, and another fellow wondered where I had gone while they were frantically waiting for me for lunch.
“Where else you guys think? I had gone to ride a horse like a warrior king,” was my roaring answer to them.
The writer, educated at universities in Canada and Nepal has long been engaged in writing in English and Nepali languages.