The Journey

A Diary of my Pursuit of Life\’s Best

Get Riding!

“I am Kane. I will help you.”
“By the power of Greyskull, I am Shera!”

These are two of the phrases I looked forward to week after week and discussed religiously in school, after the programme was aired. Kung Fu – the story of a Buddhist monk and his apprentice, who fought evil and triumphed over it with ease, and Shera – the cartoon story of a woman who also fought evil and triumphed over it.

And then there was “Lone Ranger … Away!” The cartoon character who rode a horse and rode alone in open country. He fought evil too! I remember how his horse always reared before it galloped off to their new assignment, how his lasso looped in his targets and how he made this task seem so easy! They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery … so I tried to flatter him but fell flat on my face in my attempts. The rope never became a lasso and my right arm hurt for days on end after my attempts. But, the Lone Ranger ignited my fascination with horses and every romantic novel that painted Romeo as a knight astride a horse fuelled this fascination.

In 1999 I rode a horse for the first time and promised myself that I would own one in the future. But it was not until 2007 that I began to translate my intentions into actions. The first step to owning a horse is, of course, to learn how to ride. So I began taking classes. Learning to ride begins with a walk. After a while, you graduate into trotting, and then cantering, and finally, you can gallop! There are lessons to be learnt at each stage – how to saddle and unsaddle your horse, how to mount and dismount, how to hold the reins and how to kick your horse so that he can move faster.

There are also subtle lessons – like how to pat your horse so as to encourage him, and how to groom and feed him when your lesson is over. Finally, there are lessons to look forward to in the future – like looping lassos and show jumping. It goes without saying that there are some lessons that one has to learn for lack of choice. These include how to laugh the day after your lesson without feeling as if you want to cry and how to mount the horse when you know that dismounting invites the misery of aching muscles and a funny gait.

These lessons aside, my riding experience has also taught me lessons in life. Firstly, unless you own it, don’t always ride the same horse. You’ll get used to it and riding a new horse will become difficult. This principle can be applied in any facet of your life – your job, the house you live in and what you do for leisure are good starting points.

Secondly, if you own the horse, you must nurture it; otherwise it will grow weak and die. Nurture your relationships with those you love and take time to develop these relationships. Learn new things about your job and discover how you can improve the quality of your work, and do not leave your talents to wither and die.

Thirdly, you must learn to test your limits. It’s not enough to master the trot and keep trotting for the rest of your life. You must take the risk of cantering and galloping, and celebrate your mastery of one of the world’s most noble sports. Being comfortable with your current situation is never enough. The reward often lies in going beyond your comfort zone.

And if you just want to ride without thinking of the lessons in the riding, you must look forward to the thrill of being seated 6 feet above ground level, at the mercy of your hands and feet. You will be excited by the adrenaline rush that comes when your horse begins to move, slowly at first, and then faster and faster. When the wind begins to blow in your face and your hair, you will marvel at the speed and grace with which you and your horse move, in harmony, with all your troubles taking a back seat so you can savour the moment. Your heart will race as you let your hands and feet guide you and your horse through rough and smooth terrain, through canters and gallops, and eventually, back to the stables where you will dismount and begin to dream about your next such experience.

You will talk about it with your friends and you will suffer from it with your muscles. But every moment of muscle agony is worth enduring for the measured moments on horseback. So next time you’re wondering what to do with your Saturday morning, try some excitement and Get Riding!

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February 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Memories Are Made of This

So, I’m a Toastmaster in Kenya. Toastmasters is a club that teaches communication and leadership skills through a learn-by-doing approach. My latest speech project was The Roast and I roasted my dad. It was great fun – I enjoyed being at the lectern and I managed to get him and the rest of my audience in stitches.

The speech has bits and pieces of humour that I picked from various sources that I had to tweak to make the speech work …

I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed crafting and delivering it!!!

There are millions of definitions.

There are probably as many definitions of a father as there are people in the planet. My favourite one reads, “Father: A banker provided by nature.”

I present to you family bank!

My father is an extremely generous soul. A man of his word, he is a strong believer in impeccability, industry and integrity. Rather than lie, he will use a quick-witted response to get out of a sticky situation or drive his point home.

I recall the day I brought home the worst report form in my life. Squinting to make sure he was seeing the right thing, he said to me, “At least this report form shows that you haven’t been cheating.” What an optimist!

I also remember us leaving the house late one morning – on my account. Ever the gentleman, he did not utter a word about my tardiness. However, he was a bit too enthusiastic on the accelerator and was stopped by a policeman.

“I’ve been waiting for a driver like you!” boomed the officer.

“I know, officer – I got here as fast as I could.” We got off scot-free, but he was a bit shaken by what had been a very close brush with the death of his career as a bank.

A while back, he got involved in a debate on healthy living…what to eat…the value of exercise…how to live. Suddenly, he said, “Look at that elephant. It’s fat! Can you believe that all it does all day everyday is eat vegetables and walk?? And look at the cheetah. It eats herbivores (also known as processed vegetables) and it runs!”

That elicited a “You want to die young?” from his friend.

“No … not at all. I want to die happy!”

When I was growing up, my father always told me, “You must always leave the house looking your best – dress for the occasion”. He set a fine example. One Sunday morning, I woke up to find him dressed to the nines. A bit puzzled, I asked him what the occasion was. “It’s Sunday, sweetheart.” I’m going golfing and I’m looking my best. Just before he left, I noted that he had a ‘potato’ in one sock. I thought it dulled his outfit. “Don’t worry, my dear – a hole-in-one is a very prestigious affair in golf. I’m just dressed for that occasion”. That day, he hit a hole-in-one and doesn’t wear holes-in-one anymore.

It would be unfair if I concluded this speech without telling you about my latest experience with my favourite banker. Over the holidays, my phone gave me lots of trouble. I whined about it at every opportunity, if only to have my family share my misery. This year, my father bought me a beautiful phone and I am eternally grateful. Next year, I hope that my car will give me trouble.

My father celebrated his birthday last week. His face shows it a little, his head shows it a little more, but his heart shows his age most of all. I know that every wrinkle, every little white hair and every lost white hair will be evidence of the joy that comes from giving and the fulfilment of giving unreservedly. And so, I say unreservedly, I love you and am extremely proud to be associated with family bank!!

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments