Dealing with an eager teenager’s stubborn desires for his first set of wheels is a tough task for many Indian parents. But even as we hear stories everyday about disastrous accidents caused by underage drivers indulging their fancies, one Kerala family found a creative solution around the dilemma.
Turning 16, Harshavardhan, a state-level roller-skater, wanted to graduate to his first set of motorised wheels and get himself a motorbike. But there was no way he could convince his father, since he was too young to get a driver’s license. So Harshavardhan did the next best thing – he convinced his father to buy him a horse!
"I'm a minor and I cannot get a drivers' licence before a year or two. I am also hearing that they are going to raise the age limit for license eligibility. If that's the case, then I cannot even dream of riding a bike until I turn 21. So I pleaded with my father to get me a horse," the enthusiastic teenager tells The News Minute.
His father Sudheer Babu, a health inspector based in Kannur, says that his son has always had a fascination for both horses and bikes. “Even last year, there was an exhibition in town and I took my son there just because he could ride a horse,” says Sudheer.
And when his son began to express a desire to upgrade to his first “ride”, Sudheeer was quite relieved to indulge his son’s fascination for the animal instead of the machine by buying a horse from Mysuru.
"Nowadays, it is every teenager's demand that their family get them a motorbike. But Harsha knew he couldn't convince me to get him a bike, and so he asked me to get him a horse. Though I have been putting off his pleas for quite some time, the perfect opportunity came when we went for a tour to Mysuru six months ago. After much negotiation, I managed to buy the horse for Rs 1.5 lakh," Sudheer says.
Six months since he got his horse, Harshavardhan has become something of “star” in his hometown, Kannur’s Kuthuparamba, thanks to his two-and-half-year old chestnut brown steed, Muthumani.He and Muthumani have now become an inseparable pair, and are an easily recognisable sight around town.
"It's nice to have a horse of your own... not everybody gets to ride a horse on a daily basis and so many children have now made it a routine to come to my place every evening to spend time with Muthumani," Harshavardhan admits.
Even feeding Muthumani has become something of a mass ritual, says Harshavardhan, as many of the neighbourhood children gather in the evenings to her hay, bananas and horse gram.
The best part of the deal, for Harshavardhan, is never having to worry about any interference from the police when he’s out on Kuthuparamba’s streets.
So, the teenager says, he’s also become a lot more help around the house. From complaining about having to run to the store around the corner, Harshavardhan is now enthusiastic to grab any chance to get out and ride around town for any errand. Of course, Muthumani has added on work of her own for Harshavardhan’s mother, since she gets stuck with cleaning the animal most often.
Learning to ride Muthumani, admits Harshavardhan, has not been as easy as getting used to a motorbike. It took him nearly two months to master the skill.
"Earlier, the horse wasn't as friendly as it is now. And so it was difficult for me to take her out. But now, after months of having us around, Muthumani has become one of us. Although she kicked me off her back once, she does not do so anymore," Harshavardhan says.
Her place in the family secured, Sudheer is now in the process of a constructing a full stable for Muthumani. And Harshavardhan, who is set to enroll himself for police training once his Class 12 results are published, will soon go to Ooty, to formally train in horse riding.
(All photographs by SK Mohan)