Bala's Riding Blues

Janak Singh, the riding instructor, shouted at the top of his voice, "Tarrot".

This word (as a synonym for horse’s trot) was nowhere to be found in Oxford or Cambridge dictionary or in any other lexicon of English language, yet the probationers had by now understood that through this command the big mustached riding instructor wanted them to give a mild kick into the belly of the horse by the spurs tucked to their riding boots and to start their bottoms jump up and down on the saddle of the horses. The horses that had been broken, trained, and routinely commanded by Janak Singh understood him more unmistakably and they turned to trot mode from walking mode immediately.

I, along with other I.P.S. probationers, had reported last week at the Central Police Training College, Mt. Abu for police training. Our equitation classes had commenced from the very beginning and today we were being taught trotting on the horse. Our thighs, which had already become hairless while learning walking the horse, had now become bruised and were bleeding at certain places. However, Janak singh would not show any sympathy to anybody, and nobody would dare to complain or even make a mention of their hurt because that would only invite the comment 'Sissy' by Janak Singh. Off the riding ground we would vociferously speak against Janak Singh and call him a pucca sadist but before him we would meekly accept ourselves as the rightful objects of his sadism. But since exceptions prove the rule, there was one probationer by the name Bala (Bala Subramanyam), who had his own plans to outwit not only Janak Singh but also the Commandant.

It was a strange combination – Bala and Police. Bala loved his beer and enjoyed to while away his time in its uninterrupted ‘khumar’ while police training demanded alertness even while dying of fatigue. Horse-riding was certainly an unacceptable interruption in Bala’s pass-time.  Therefore, the very first day Bala was to ride the horse, he came with a knee-band complaining that he had severe pain in the right knee and could not mount the horse. Janak Singh was neither impressed nor mellowed and got Bala lifted by the syces on the horse. Bala was not the one to be subdued by any shouting of Janak Singh or forced lifting of himself. So, he started throwing up (vomiting) on the back of the horse. Janak Singh was left with no choice but to ask Bala to dismount and stand outside the riding ground till the riding period was over. Bala’s confidence grew by leaps and bounds and on subsequent occasions he came so drunk that managing a ‘throw-up’ proved to be a left hand’s job. Janak Singh got so frustrated that he no more shouted at Bala or even asked him to ride the horse. Having gained that much ground, Bala discovered that standing by the side of the riding ground for full 60 minutes was too much of an interruption in his ‘khmar’ and he totally stopped coming to the riding ground.

Janak Singh reported the matter to the Commandant, who directed the Asstt. Commandant Mr. G. A. Burge to ensure Bala’s presence during riding classes. Burge sent repeated notices to Bala, which were put to good use by him by throwing in the fire-place to keep the room warm. Then one day Burge came to the riding ground and finding Bala nowhere there, he ordered four hefty probationers and a syce to lift and bring Bala from his room. The troupe went and on Bala’s refusal to come to the riding ground, they lifted him from the bed forcibly. Bala immediately conjured the old trick and started throwing up on all of them. Disgusted, they put him back on the bed and took hasty retreat. On hearing their report Burge, despite his anger on Bala’s defiance, could hardly suppress his smile. Thereafter, everybody gave up and Bala was no more asked to come to learn riding. Of course, he was given a big Zero in the equitation examination,

After completion of training period at C. P, T. C., Mt. Abu, Bala joined the state of Orissa, to which he had been allotted. According to service rules, failure in any subject meant repetition of examination each year at the time of the examination of new batch of probationers. It also resulted in withholding any increment and promotion till clearing that examination. Orissa government sent him thrice to Mount Abu to clear the riding examination and Bala each time came back undaunted with a big Zero added in his results. Ultimately, the poor government of Orissa wisely thought to not waste money on Bala’s horse-riding and exempted him from further riding tests. Bala became the first S. P. in the history of Indian Police who never passed a riding examination.

Image (c)


More by :  Mahesh Chandra Dewedy

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