He had a single name, Dukpa, which meant that he hailed from Bhutan; 'Druk' was Bhutan and 'pa', man. “That's all you need to identify your existence with,” he once explained to me, “with having or lacking a first name, you never have or lack anything extra.”
Dukpa was employed as a 'sahish', running after the horses hired out for fun riding to the tourists in a Himalayan resort by his employer who owned several of them.
Dukpa was a good horse-man; In fact calling him that was rather crude; a horse-whisperer was much nearer the point. His favorite was an aging mare; Pema, he had lovingly christened her.
His employer hired and fired him almost daily; hired him for his horse-sense, and fired him for his weakness in giving Pema as much food and rest as was possible. The net result was that the mare earned less and ate more. The employer resented this; and, in Dukpa's reckoning, had stooped so low as to declare Pema to be the ugliest one of his whole lot.
Dukpa didn't care one way or the other. But what really brought tears to his eyes was the rapacious employer's caprice of kicking the mare for no reason at all. To make up, he would buy colorful ribbons, show them to the mare as if to assuage her feelings, and tie them on her mane, telling her in a soothing voice that she would go to heaven, and the employer to hell.
The day came when Dukpa decided that enough was enough. He maneuvered Pema in a particular position, and informed the owner that she could not work with injuries in her hind legs. The disbelieving employer came over to personally inspect the injuries. Dukpa tightened his grip on Pema's mane, and beseeched her, “Now baby, now.”
A snort later, Pema heaved up both the hoofs, equipped with new horse-shoes, with all her might, caught the employer under the ribcage, and threw him on to the concrete wall at the far end of the stable. “And that's what I call an ugly kick,” shouted Dukpa. Pema guffawed for the first time in her life.
The employer was rushed to the hospital with multiple fractures, and Dukpa rushed Pema to safety. He rode Into a pre-arranged Buddhist monastery in a far flung area where the head Lama had agreed to take them in.
Dukpa took the robes and the vow of silence, and slept under the same shade built for Pema, taking care of the mare in her old age. The head Lama approved, counseling Dukpa that that precisely was his way to salvation. Dukpa fulfilled his assurance to Pema that she would go to heaven if there was one; the monastery indeed was Pema's heaven.
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE