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Back in the saddle again.

Sometimes in Delhi it feels that there is nowhere to turn  except toward everyone else. The guards know when I come in at night. The gardener wakes me in the morning. My landlord peers out her window every time the gate clangs. A man watches me from the construction site next door as I sit on my roof to type this. I walk into a secluded tomb in a park and interrupt a couple’s stolen kiss. A cow bellows. The maid yells at her husband. The subzee wallah shouts his wares. Everyone is everywhere around me.

But sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, I let my friend kidnap me and whisk me away down the most choked city street, beyond buses and ambassadors, over flyovers and across highways. And then we make a left turn under a decaying railway bridge, skip along a dirt path and then, it is there: stillness.

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She plops a too-tight cap on my head and tells a boy to bring a horse to the stairs. I boast I know what I’m doing. ‘But the damn saddle is English and I’m from the West!’ I shout when I almost fall off. The boy stifles a laugh and I’m up. She springs up on her horse and we canter out slowly past riding rings and men swinging polo bats and children trotting in a row. And then, past ivy creepers and acacia trees, we’re suddenly lost in a forest. I ask if there are tigers there, half-joking. She says, no, but there may be leopards still. Just as she says it, the bushes start to sway in front of us, and a flash of white streaks the path. I nearly scream. It is not a leopard. It is a pig. Not even a wild one at that. It ambles off in another direction.

I can’t even hear cars honking anymore.

The horses start to gallop through branches and brambles and I’m almost positive my horse is about to twist her ankle. I don’t know how to hold on. We’re flying over dirt canyons and across tangled weeds. My friend looks back at me and grins, “You don’t like trotting, do you?”

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She slows down. She lets her horse amble, eating the weeds. I like this pace. My horse hasn’t noticed once that I am the one holding its reins. But at this pace I can pretend like I’m in control.

Peacocks mew their mating call. The tree branches slice the setting sun into orange beams. It’s shady and silent and still. We do our best to break up the quiet by gossiping loudly. It’s allowed. We haven’t seen each other in months. I gobble up her summer dramas. I tell her of my silly tragedies and triumphs.

The world seems very far away. I wish it were 1920. I wish there were a stately old bungalow we could trot back to for tea and gin fizzes. I picture the riding outfit I would wear. I wish I had a horsewhip.

It is twilight and I am happy.

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3 Comments

  1. raju says:

    evocative
    i am also noticing how clever you are getting on this blog at using images of yourself that don’t show you. smart, mel. and effective.

  2. Melissa says:

    Good to see you paying attention!

  3. Sarge says:

    bramble and amble … if you were walking on a revery, i would open up my doors and feed you tea and cake for weeks, no months, no years.