There’s a certain magic in being all by you in a foggy dawn up on the green and violet hills. Why? Because you don’t know what is waiting for you in the bend right after this. I am fortunate because I have known myself in the mist of that mysterious land closer to the Gods. Taking a leaf from my travel diary, I remember this one particular morning in Darjeeling, when the hills and the trees were bathed in musky dew and I was wrapped in a large blue sweater my father owned, walking around on the roads that were a soft shade of pink. My ear phones played one of those heart rending folk songs I swear by on such calm mornings as I looked down the valley at the end of the narrow road, hands stuffed into my pocket stealing away from the chill. I felt like God for a moment as I saw the little town awaken to the morning rays slowly. The chimneys crowning the wooden homes below kept smoking. The white smoke diffused into the otherwise still December air only to be perturbed by the flapping wings of a hoard of white doves.
I suddenly turned around to see a little boy mounted atop a brilliant black horse trotting up the street, while making conversation with the beautiful beast. “Can I take a ride?” I smiled at the skinny little fellow who had chosen only a pair of torn shorts and a sleeveless sweater to brave that cold. “Yes why not? But don’t blame me if you topple off. He doesn’t listen to me at times you know.” he said with a glint in his eyes. I thought I could trust him, and I did. The boy held my hand and lifted me on to the horse and sat me down comfortably in front of him. “So, where do you want to go?” he asked me enthusiastically. “Oh I don’t know. Wherever he wants to go.” I said as I held the reigns tight and the beautiful stallion neighed. It was perhaps my second time on a horse, the first time being thirteen years back, and my memories of it being bleak.
“Chal chal! Saamne se baaye chal!” screamed the little fellow as he broke through the silence of the mountains gathering a curious audience as he stormed by. My heart raced with every step the horse took and every movement my little rider made. I shut my eyes while approaching the sharper bends, what with the roads being wet and slippery, but within seconds opened them to see a blast of sunlight illuminating the world above in a million colors. My dear friend’s pet seemed to be in a particularly obedient mood today. “Do you get jalebis somewhere nearby?” I shouted as the wind whistled and hooted past our ears. Without an answer, he steered the beauty to a right and rode faster than ever. I did not shut my eyes this time, and I am glad. A tiny waterfall feeding a bushel of roses swung past my feet as an assembly of exotic green birds on the pavement scattered into the sky like a handful of emerald dust as we rode past all of them. I saw life in a million hues, like a sparkling piece of diamond.
We finally halted at a jalebi shop on the market road and panting for breath I sat myself down on a rickety tool. I ordered a dozen jalebis for me and my young friend who didn’t seem to be running out of breath at all. “Take these jalebis. And also keep this money, buy something for your beautiful companion. I had the ride of my life.” he smiled as he accepted my small gift. He was just about to mount the horse when he came back and hugged me. “Next time, I’ll take you through the woods. He loves it there, wild and free.” he said with a smile on his face, a smile that blinded out the sun that shone behind him.
Contributed by Arshia Dhar