Writer Jeyamohan ranks this story of Tamil Novelist Sujatha as one of the best humorous short stories in Tamil. Uncle visit மாமா விஜயம் is my favourite. You can read it here.
Horse – குதிரை
Some people win lottery. Some people are selected by movie directors while waiting in bus stops and are called for shooting from the next new moon. How people are selected randomly and how they become famous? I always used to wonder about this, till, one day I became one of them. All because a horse bit me. You are surprised and want to know how? I will tell you. But first a few lines about me then about the horse. My name is Krishnasamy. Shorten it to ‘Kicha’ and imagine a person. That’s me. Profession or appearance; nothing is unique about me. An every day life; wake up, drink coffee, fold cloths, take bus – a human ant that dies inch by inch. Wife, child, father in law, rented house, bathroom song, a couple of flower plants in clay pots, a radio bough in instalment; an ordinary person leading a dull life – till the horse bit me. The horse is also not a famous one. A jatka (horse cart) horse.
As you walk towards Ahmed store from my house, you can see an hospital on the way. Outside, there is a small stall where they sell tender coconut and empty bottles. Opposite to this store is the horse stable or shed. Generally you would have seen an horse stable opposite to the hospitals. You would have also observed this. Whether you go to Thennur in Trichy or Bitrakunda you would have also seen the same type of construction of these stables; tall stone pillars with a carefully done roof, a board stating some Naidu has gifted this in circa 1938 with a small water tank as an appendage. In the bustling city environment, they look like an island with a stink coming out of a mixture of horse shit and wet grass, while the cart drivers gaze lazily at the surroundings. You can always see couple of young horses. One of them, suddenly would a get a ‘kick,’ bolt out of the stable and run amidst the traffic chaos of the city. The stable I talked about is a typical example. As it started to rain, I tool shelter in the stable.
Some of the horses did not bother about me, shrugging unexpected parts of their bodies, lazily munching the grass the cart-man was feeding them. All were old, their bones visible with deep scars on their shoulders. It was difficult to say if they were horses or donkeys. One of them bit my elbow. I was walking and suddenly felt pain in the elbow. I turned around to see what happened. The horse was standing behind, staring at me laughing through its wet lips. Cursing and looking at me elbow, I searched for the cart-man; he was nowhere to be seen. One young boy was staring at something. Fearing it may bite me again, I moved out and checked the wound under morning sun. I could see small mark of its teeth. By this time, the horse had decided there was nothing more to do and walked away. I cursed generally and walked home looking at the wound, thinking I could clean with Dettol and apply some ointment.
Wife did not expect the husband who went to the grocery store would be back soon bitten by a horse. She was standing outside the house just gazing around. “Why are you back so fast? Is Ahmed store closed?” she asked me. “No just on the way” “Oh what happened on the way? Why are you looking at your hand?” “Come inside. I will tell you.” “What happened? Did you fall down somewhere?” “No on the way to store, there is a horse stable no? One of the horses bit me.”
“What a horse?”
By this time, father in law was walking towards us. Wife asked him, “Dad will horse bite?”
“Bite human beings? Chi No way!”
“It has – your son in law.”
“Is it? Very strange. Did you tease the horse?” FIL asked me.
“No I was just walking past when it caught me unexpectedly.”
“Why did you go there? Kalyani, did you ask him to fetch a jatka?”
“No dad. I just asked him get some wick for the stove from Ahmed store. My god. The teeth has sunk in. Skin is red. Dad come and have a look.”
FIL looked at the wound. It looked serious.
“You go to Dr. Rao and show him. Kalyani, you take him it to the doctor. Is it Jatka horse?”
“Jatka horse won’t bite.” he said as if he has got a doctorate on Jatka horses.
‘This one bit me. What can I do?”
Kalyani started her lament. “All these will happen only to him. He will sink in water even if it is one inch level just like it happened in Uyyakondan canal in Trichy.”
“OK. Now you keep quiet.” I shouted at her.
“Anyway let us go to Dr. Rao.” Looking at the wound, I thought as much. But I was hesitant how would I do explain what happened without getting ridiculed.
Narahari Rao is our family physician. Though sixty years old, he had a thriving practice. Even in the morning, when we went to the clinic, it was full with children, mothers and people wearing mufflers occupying the waiting hall. The small place was partioned and inside the other half doctor was asking someone to open the mouth and examining it with a hand-held lens. We did not have a place to sit. When the compounder boy came out, Kalyani told him we need to see the doctor in a hurry. The boy said, “everyone is in a hurry.” “No this is different!” said Kalyani. “He is bitten by a horse!” An aunty sprang up and asked, “What a horse?” “Yes aunty what can I say? He went out and got bitten by a horse.” “Are you having a horse? Why did he go near it?” “No mami. We don’t have one. He was bitten by some jatka horse.” Everyone was looking at me. Doctor said, “Come inside Kicha.”
“At this age, why did you seek out a horse to play with?”
“No doctor. I was walking opposite side of the hospital, then..” I told the story in a hushed voice.
“Doctor will it have poisonous teeth?” Kalyani.
“I don’t know. But Kalyani, I have been practicing medicine for the last thirty years in this mill corner. First time I am seeing a horse bitten case.”
“What to do doctor. He is born for accidents. He said he would learn to ride a scooter. Even before taking it on a ride, he fell down as he tried to take it out of the stand. The scooter fell on him. Look at the scar on his leg.”
Doctor looked at my wound in the elbow. “Is it paining? I will cauterize it. He lit a small spirit stove and retrieved a book from the shelf and searched from the index at the back, for horse and horse bites. “Mmm. There is noting about horse bite in the book. Don’t worry. I will write a chit. Go to the hospital and start a course of injection immediately.”
“Why can’t you give that injection?”
“I don’t have the serum. Moreover, Dr. Gopi is very experienced in this. He can examine and decide if you need injection. For now, I will cauterize the wound. He laughed for few seconds, uttered, ‘mm horse’ and said, “I will give a letter for Dr. Gopi. See him immediately.”
When we were walking towards the hospital, a cow was trying a eat a torn vest. Kalyani said, “be careful. This will also bite you.”
“What are you saying. Did I go and got bitten deliberately?”
“I don’t know if it is deliberate or not. These things happen only at our house. Did you hear what doctor said?”
“Of course I did. Yes normally they don’t bite. But it did bite me. Should I go and ask the horse why?”
“No no. It may bite you again. If it is going to bite, why should you go near it?”
“Idiot. How would I know it would bite?”
A crowd had gathered to watch our fight by this time. We stopped our argument and walked towards the hospital. I went searching for Dr. Gopinath in the hospital. A large bench was laid out and many patients were sitting and waiting for their turn. I was worried that Kalyani would start shouting, ‘he is bitten by a horse.’ But she kept quiet. When enquired, I understood, most of them were bitten by dogs. One or two rat and scorpion cases were also there. On everyone’s chit it was written ‘dog.’ When the attendant saw my chit, he hesitated. He asked, “Who is Krishnasamy?” I stood out and said, “It’s me.” “You have written wrongly as horse. Can you correct it?” I replied, “No. It is correct. It is indeed a horse.” He went inside and spoke to Dr. Gopinath who called me immediately. He asked me to sit.
“Dr. Rao called me and explained. Where did the horse bite you?”
“Outside the hospital, in the horse shed.”
“I am asking in which part of your body did the horse bite?”
“Oh in my elbow.” I showed him the wound.
“Oh Ok. Did he cauterize the wound?” he looked up for a book in the shelf and retrieved it.
“There is no mention of horse bite in the book doctor!” Kalyani told him. “How would you know?” “Dr. Rao has already checked doctor.” “Look Mr. Krishnasamy. Let us do one thing. I have not seen any horse bite case so far. But why should we take risk? Let us start a course of injection.”
“Doctor, there is no danger to his life?”
“No madam not at all. But Mr. Krishnasamy, do one thing. Watch the horse for three days. Just check if it dies in the next couple of days. Do you remember which horse bit you?”
“Mmm” I said hesitatingly.
“Doctor why should we watch it for three days?”
If it is rabid horse it will die. If it is alive, then nothing to worry. I will take care. Without taking any risk I will start a course of injections. Come everyday morning at this hour. OK.”
Kalyani came out asking The God why is he testing her like this.
As we came out, I observed people sitting on the bench, stopped talking. Some closed their mouths and uttered a few words to people sitting next to them pointing out me. Even after I walked past them, I could feel their stare on my back. I thought of shouting at them, ‘what if the horse has bitten me?’ but kept quiet. Kalyani wanted to check the horse at the shed. I did not feel the necessity but we went there anyway. She asked me if I remembered the horse. I answered her, “I think yes. It had a white patch on the forehead like in diamond shape.” When we went there, the shed was empty. Only small boy was there, shaking his legs and singing. “Hey where are the horses?” “All have gone out on fare. Wait for sometime. They will be back. Have they given the body?” Kalyani wanted to know what did he mean by that.
I asked, “How many horses are here?”
“Why is there an election? Are you standing in horse symbol? Are you going on a procession? How many horses you need?” the boy went on asking questions. “No we just asked about one horse. It has a diamond shaped patch on the forehead.” “Oh, you are talking about Karim bhai’s horse. Wait here. It will come soon. It has gone to kabrastan (Muslim burial ground).
“Is it alive?”
“Good” we said and went home without waiting for its arrival. Kalyani asked me to check the horse everyday while going to the hospital. Next day, while on the way to the hospital I met the horse which bit me. The small boy said, “Karim bhai. The man who enquired about your horse yesterday has come.” Karim bhai’s eyes were red even in the morning. He came to me and said, “Samy did you enquire about my sultan yesterday?” I went near his horse and confirmed that it was the same horse which bit me the previous day. It was shorn of all the paraphernalia and looked like a lady who was about to take an oil bath. I told Karim bhai, “this horse bit me yesterday.” Karim put his hands under the horse’s chin and said, “Sultan won’t bite anyone. You know about this horse? It has won many prizes in rekla races. He looked at the horse. It belted out a Brrrr sound. “I am happy if he is fine. Look here. It has bitten on my elbow. I have to take a course of preventive injections. Could you have not controlled your horse?”
“Are you taking injections? For horse bite?” he laughed like his horse Sultan. He showed me his hands. “Look here! How many times he has bitten me while feeding him grass and horse gram. What Sultan?” The horse did not respond.
But I did not take risk. I did not mind or care when the hospital staff called out, ‘the horseman has come’ or when they brought people from opposite ward to show them the new specimen, or when Kalyani called all the relatives and explained to them what happened to me. I completed the course. In few days the wound had healed. But my name had changed after the incident to ‘Horse Kichami.’ Though there is Kichami in every village, town and city, there is only one ‘Horse Kichami’ in the country. I am bit proud of that.
Sujatha (3 May 1935 – 27 February 2008) was the pseudonym of the Tamil author S. Rangarajan, author of over 100 novels, 250 short stories, ten books on science, ten stage plays, and a slim volume of poems. He was one of the most popular authors in Tamil literature, and a regular contributor to topical columns in Tamil periodicals such as Ananda Vikatan, Kumudam and Kalki. He had a wide readership, and served for a brief period as the editor of Kumudam, and has also composed screenplays and dialogues for several Tamil movies.
Penning with his wife’s name, Sujatha’s Tamil literary career spanned more than four decades. An engineer by profession, he was proficient in the language of technology. Widely read and knowledgeable, he presented his knowledge in simple Tamil.
His works stood out during a time when Tamil composing was dominated by social/family dramas and historical novels. His identification with the masses, and his uncanny adoption of their way of talking, behavior, mindset and slang, helped make him popular across multiple demographic segments.
His popularization of technology was one of his greatest contributions – starting with his Silicon Chip composing in Dinamani Kadhir and Yen, Yedharku, Eppadi in Junior Vikatan. At one point, his composing was appearing in numerous Tamil weeklies and journals simultaneously, including Ananda Vikatan, Kumudam, Kungumam, Kalki and Dhinamani Kadhir. Later he contributed as script/screenplay author for several Tamil movies. His notable movies included Vikram,Thiruda Thiruda, Boys and Sivaji. Most of his early novels/stories were made as movies, including Priya, Gaytri, Karaiyellam Senbagapoo and Anandha Thandavam, among others.
In his later days he restricted his composing to essays such as Katradhum-Petradhum. He began to spend more time reading, especially old rare Tamil composings and composings on the latest developments in information technology and computing.
As an engineer, he supervised the design and production of the electronic voting machine (EVM) during his tenure at Bharat Electronics Limited, a machine which is currently used in elections throughout India. As an author he inspired many authors, including Balakumaran, Madhan, Charu Nivedita. – Wikipedia
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