We woke up at 4.00 am. Even though it was the time to return, I remember that both, me and my sister, Vaishali, were very excited.
We were ready in a jiffy waiting to go back to the station…nay, waiting to go back to the cute little train.
So there we were, two excited little souls and two souls burdened with the thoughts of going back to the daily grind, waiting outside the hotel.
Soon, we heard the clippity-clop of the horses. Vaishali started jumping and clapping, a wide smile pasted on her face, making screeching noises, only children of a certain age can make. While I sized up the approaching horses with enthusiasm.
Our parents got into a hand pulled rickshaw while we children mounted the horses. And soon we were trotting off, ahead.
“Yeah…we won, we won”, we exclaimed excitedly, as our parents rickshaw fell way behind.
“Hey…go slow, go slow”, we heard the faint shout of our mother.
“Faster, faster”, we egged our horses on.
Suddenly I could neither see the rickshaw nor my sister! Where was she? Where was her horse? A trickle of sweat ran down my temples even in the cold morning air of Matheran.
But I didn’t have to wait long, for a shrill scream pierced the darkness and it came from somewhere nearby. Looking backwards, I squinted my eyes to see clearly.
I saw the horse which was carrying Vaishali, sitting down, its front legs folded below its body but the back legs still standing and my little cherubic sister trying to balance herself on its back, in that precarious sloping position, but thankfully supported by the horse handler.
“What happened?”, my mother cried.
“Can’t you bring a proper horse? I had told you that you have to carry small children. How can you be so careless!”, father shouted at the handlers.
Within no time, our parents were by our side. My father picked up Vaishali and comforted her but she was not going to be calm unless she felt the warmth of mother.
Finally they took her to their rickshaw and we were ready to resume our small trek towards the station. The poor horse was left at the roadside, his handler tending to him.
My horse handler was given strict instructions to remain in the vicinity of the rickshaw.
Vaishali had calmed down by now and was watching her brother riding a horse while she was in the rickshaw.
“Baba…horse”, a grumpy, moon-face demanded from her father, pointing at my horse.
“Beta, the horses are weak. They cannot take your weight”, my father teased her.
“Aai…tell Baba”, her mouth curled up into a scowl, tears brimming her eyes.
“Aho, let her sit with Yatin”, and added softly, “Or be prepared for her tantrums”.
And that was enough. The rest of the journey, we siblings were carried on the back of a single horse.
The train journey was to be another adventure altogether!