The White Horse
By Tribhuwan N. Bhan
Right from my childhood, I have been having a special liking
for animals. At various stages of life, I had a dog as a pet but it has been a
horse that fascinates me for its grace, speed and stamina. In early forties, my
father late Shri Gobindji Bhan owned one of the best tongas in Srinagar.
Naturally, I was very fond of our horse. For me, its presence in the house gave
me immense joy. It was treated like a family member.
As a child, I often spent a day or two with my maternal
grandparents at Banamohalla. Everyone adored me there. I would get anything that
I demanded. While returning to my home at Karan Nagar, Bhaisaheb, my maternal
grandfather, would escort me. On one such occasion, we were passing through
Chotta Bazar near Kani Kadal. On that particular day, a tongawalla was
disharnessing his horse from the tonga. The light grey horse, almost white in
colour, was a picture of elegance. To me, it was a thing of beauty, which
captivated my thoughts and my feet refused to move further. While I was
engrossed in watching the 'White Horse', Bhaisaheb was walking ahead. He was
unaware that I was left behind him standing at one place. As he turned round, he
retraced his steps and told me, "Come on, we are getting late. Your mother
must be worried by now." I, with my thoughts occupied by the majestic
horse, paid no heed to what he was saying. I pointed at the horse across the
road and told him in no uncertain terms, "I want that horse".
"Are you crazy? How can you have it? That man over there must be owning
it", he said rather angrily. I would have none of his arguments. I refused
to budge from where I stood. Not only that I threw my tantrums, wept bitterly,
stamped my feet on the road. Seeing my grandfather's predicament, some people
passing by, asked him as to why I was crying. A small crowd gathered and from
this crowd, a man took Bhaisaheb aside. What transpired between them, I could
not hear. Afterwards both of them went across the road and spoke for some time
to the owner of the horse. All the while, I was getting impatient and time stood
still for me. Three of them were in deep discussion. After quite some time, my
joy was limitless when I saw Bhaisaheb, the owner of the horse and the horse
crossing the road and approaching me. The man from the small crowd did not
accompany them but I could see a certain smile of satisfaction on his face.
Coming close to me, Bhaisaheb told me, "Here is the horse. It is all yours.
Now stop crying". "But I want to take it home", I told him.
Before he would say anything, Kadira, the owner of the horse interrupted and
told me, "In that case, I will also come to your home. But you will have to
treat me to a cup of 'Sheeri Chai' and 'Telvor'. I am famished. Whole day I have
not eaten anything". I at once agreed to what he wanted. So, four of us
walked towards my home. I made sure that the horse and Kadira walked in front of
me. The crowd had already dispersed. There was a stable at my home at Karan
Nagar. It was not occupied on that day as my father had gone to Bandipora where
he was posted those days. He usually travelled by his tonga. He felt more
comfortable thus as it was an independent mode of travel for him. I made sure
that the horse was lodged in the stable. I told my mother to serve the promised
tea to Kadira. Later, my mother took me aside and scolded me for having created
a scene on the roadside, embarrassed Bhaisaheb and having taken advantage of his
kindness and love for me. I gave her patient hearing but had nothing to say as I
was on cloud nine for owning a 'white horse'. With these thoughts, I went to
sleep, dreaming of riding the most magnificent horse high up in the clouds.
Next morning, when I woke up, the first thing I did was to go to
the stable and have a look at my 'white horse'. I was petrified, blood froze in
my veins, a chill ran down my spine, when I discovered that the horse had
vanished and the stable was empty. I asked my mother, where the horse had gone.
She had no answer. I put the same question to others too in the house. No one
gave me an answer. All were mum, which annoyed me all the more. Being deprived
of my proud possession, I started to cry bitterly and threw all sorts of
tantrums. I literally shook the whole house. This physical fatigue and mental
turmoil exhausted me completely, and I had to be put to bed by my mother, as she
must have realised the pitiable state I was in. It took me days to come to terms
with the stark reality that I did not own the 'White Horse' any more. This
episode took place some time in 1942.
Years passed, I came to Mumbai in 1958. I used to go to Srinagar
for summer holidays every year. During one such visit, I was with Bhaisaheb at
his home at Banamohalla. He had grown very old but his memory never failed him,
till his last day. He asked me whether I remembered the episode involving the
'White Horse' of Chotta Bazar. I replied in affirmative.
Bhaisaheb recounted in detail what had actually happened on that
day. He told me, "The man from the crowd who took me across the road to
talk to the owner of the horse, was known to Kadira, the owner. We both
convinced him and I almost begged of him to come to my rescue.
Realising my predicament and being kind at heart, we were able
to strike a deal with him. He agreed to put-up an act to make you feel as if he
had gifted the horse to you. For his cooperation and kindness, I had given him
one rupee - not a small amount of money those days. After lodging the horse in
the stable, your mother has coaxed you to sleep. That was when Kadira took the
Whatever good, bad or ugly happened on that particular day, left
an indelible mark on my psyche as, I was ecstatic on owning a horse, though my
ecstasy was short-lived.