Duty and the beast

The curriculum was tough. The drills were held on cold, misty mornings. The unfamiliar uniforms, and the long, tough boots that needed an orderly to pull them on to one’s cold legs. Then there was the scholastic part of it with dry legal lingo. But they were capable young Indian Police Service (IPS) probationers, they had the potential to master these subjects. They had chosen this path. And by Jove! they were going to see it through. However, many of them dreaded Tuesdays.

Tuesdays meant wrestling with huge, snorting beasts. Some had a passing familiarity with horses, but to most, especially those from urban areas these were alien beasts. The first training session was eventful, they all assembled, shivering in the cold. The mountainous horses, snorted and threw their heads back, pawing the ground in impatience.

The brave among them reached out gingerly, touching the heaving flanks. The rest just stared, laughing nervously. And then, left with no choice, they began. Placing their booted feet into stirrups, pulling themselves onto the horse.

And thus, the dreaded horse-riding course started. Slowly the days went by, and the fear of horses receded, the young officers would fill their pockets with sugar cubes on Tuesdays and would bribe the horses into friendliness. They learnt to talk to them and pat them, with hearty thumps on their backs. And they learnt to sit up straight and look smart.

But mishaps still happened. One relieved gentleman, getting off his horse at the end of the day, suddenly found it rearing its head, standing with its forelegs curling in the air. Over the buzzing sound in his ears, he could hear the Instructor bellowing, “Arre Sab, aap ghoda ke upar hai ya ghoda aap ke upar hai?”

The officer still groggy, and in the process of getting up was shocked to hear the guru instructing him to get onto the horse again, and overcome his fear. Another officer found he could not control his frisky horse, and found himself riding out of the Polo Grounds onto the road. Mt. Abu is not a very big town but to him, it seemed huge when he was taken on a detailed tour of the town that ended in the horse’s own stable.

White lady was the darling of the lot, and officers thought it lucky to get her for the day. Not when the naughty Hussar caught her eye, then they gallantly chased each other and headed for the jumps. Both their riders prayed to any God they could invoke. Jump after jump, neck to neck, they sailed recklessly. One rider said later that it was only his pious mother’s prayers that saved him.

And so, the days went by till the young men ‘plodded off’ to their respective postings. But whenever a group of them got together hardly ever did the topic of the equine capers fail to be greeted with loud guffaws and leg-pulling. 

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