Like they say in the movies, some memories last a lifetime. More than a decade has now passed since that summer in Mussoorie, but the memories are dewy fresh. It was a beautiful summer; the hills were freshly washed and the pathways strewn with blossoms…
It was sunny the morning we first met. Mom and I were all prepared for our hiking expedition on Camel Back Road – she had worn jeans after a long time and was posing for photographs in every corner that could be featured on lens. I was in the denim shorts Dad had gifted me for my tenth birthday. A middle-aged British couple gave us a cheerful nod as they passed. I had just bent down to tie my shoelaces when a musical clippity clop made me look up.
Saying he was handsome would be understating it. All of his 15 hands – I had newly learnt that unit of horse height measurement in a school quiz – were athletic and velvet smooth. He stood demurely in a dark blue saddle, his face a polite smile. “He is delightful Pappa!” I screamed. A tight hug later, I climbed onto Roshan’s back and we moved ahead, with Mom and Dad following behind.
“Why is he named Roshan, bhaiya?” I asked the owner – Raju bhaiya – who had stopped to adjust the saddle fittings. “It’s because of how he is Choti Memsahab. He has been lighting up my life ever since he arrived.” Bhaiya smiled at me and we moved further.
He told me later how Roshan was more than just a horse for his family. He was his little three year old’s playmate, his wife’s second child. He made do with less fodder when they didn’t earn too much and was never bad tempered like many other horses bhaiya had earlier trained. My Roshan, I thought as I lovingly stroked his neck, was not just handsome but soft and well behaved too.
By the time we neared the last bend of the road, Roshan and I were firm friends. He neighed in glee when I stroked his mane. If we bumped on a sudden stone, he did tricks with his legs to please me later. “What a beauty that horse is.” Mom said over lunch later that day. “I get the hint.” smiled Dad, “I’ll get him tomorrow as well.” I jumped in delight.
All seven days of our stay in Mussoorie were Roshan days. I would spend my mornings with him on Camel Back Road and sometimes we would go to Jhoola Ghar. Bhaiya and Roshan would watch while I enjoyed a sugar candy or rode a giant-wheel. Sometimes, he would sneak in a lump of sugar when I wasn’t looking and then make his face into a grin that said -“Could I have one more?” There were other times when I would spot him eyeing a pretty mare around the corner and Bhaiya would laugh about his “dil phenk” nature.
“Dil-phenk nature.” I struggled with the word in the hotel that night. Mom looked at Dad sternly even as he guffawed.
The day we left, Roshan dropped me to the bus stand. I kissed him on the forehead and Dad gave bhaiya money to buy him a dozen sugar lumps. I waved my hand and blew him a kiss before the duo slowly faded from sight.
We went back to Mussoorie a few years later. Much as I searched, I couldn’t locate Roshan. A man in the town stables said they had relocated to Shimla.
I don’t even have a photograph of Roshan other than a particularly hazy one a helpful tourist had clicked of us. But the week we spent together will be forever framed in my mind. I often dream of living in a farmhouse with goats, cows, sheep and horses. I hope my kids will learn to ride and enjoy the farmhouse meals I will cook.
I miss you sometimes, darling Roshan. I hope you are walking down lush green hills this moment with a pretty mare by your side.
If you are one for romance, you might like to check out: “The Stages of Love”, a novel by Preeti Shenoy.
Thanks Blogadda, for spreading love this Valentine’s month!