More Horse Stories
I recall on my 30th birthday consigning an armful of photo albums – the mythology of one's life – into a garden bonfire...
Shardul's horse stories have unleashed an avalanche of equestrian memories from my own past, and time spent 'in the saddle' in back country New Zealand. Most are connected to those hunting and safari guide days that are best forgotten and un-retrieved – who wants to peer back into those early chapters of our lives and shudder at what we were or might have remained?! I recall on my 30th birthday consigning an armful of photo albums – the mythology of one's life – into a garden bonfire and firmly turning my back on this whole chapter of my life, a mad yogic act of renunciation which I faintly regretted in later years. I even learnt to roll a cigarette while riding on a galloping horse (got you there Shardul!!) but all photographic evidence of this monumental achievement went up in smoke on that fateful day of the bonfire.
I do though have fond memories of a horse called Trigger, a gentle white Palomino that my wife Subarata and I had owned during our first years together in New Zealand. Reclusive by nature, Subarata and I lived in remote places, often going for months without seeing anybody. Subarata acquired three pet wild pigs, two vegetarian border-collie dogs called Scruffles and Scobie (see: Puppy Power Revisited), four nameless hens, two zebra finches and a lamb with tons of personality called Darley. Later Trigger joined our family of animals.
Darley the lamb was raised from birth with our two dogs and developed a life-long identity crisis, hanging out with dogs and humans and shunning the company of other sheep. Later, as an unusually large and self-confident ram, he was given away to a city lawyer with two Labradors who wanted an alternative means of keeping his lawns short. Darley happily retired to the city with his new family, ever disdainful of his own kind and the quiet country life. Trigger carried us around the forest and mountains for a year, then when we had to leave our mountain hide-away, we turned Trigger loose and never saw her again.
Subarata was scheduled to leave New Zealand in three months, so in the small South Island town of Motueka we got married in a registry office. We were both indifferent to marriage, so there was no ring, no flowers – it was as meaningless as signing a bank deposit slip, but it enabled her to stay. We never bothered telling anyone until about five years later when I said to my mother, "By the way did I ever tell you we got married?" She was mortified that I had never told her, but finally she laughed and hugged us both. My mother loved us too much to be upset for long.
Later we moved with Scruffles and Scobie – but minus Trigger – to Adelaide. One day, driving around the city, we stopped and visited a small vegetarian café in the suburbs. On the café walls were aphorisms by a spiritual master that we had never heard of before – Sri Chinmoy – and some photos of a smiling face. There was no dramatic sense of recognition, no sudden revelation, but somewhere deep inside us something stirred, a feeling so subtle as to almost pass unnoticed. It was as though something long forgotten, or perhaps long awaited, had touched our souls, a tiny whisper from an unseen world.
It was in that moment, many years ago, that we first saw the face of a spiritual master who would forever change our lives and take us on a journey of unimaginable richness. We did not know it then, but we had found our guide – or had he found us? – and were about to embark upon the great journey of awakening.