Gallop along with Jack and Suresh

A horse ride is one of the happiest activities for a child. Kochi has just one place to try this out. Suresh and his loyal horse Jack, who are at the Bolghatty Palace Hotel. TANYA ABRAHAM gets the story out from the horse's mouth.

THIRTY - TWO year old Suresh is a well-known figure amongst Kochi localities, simply because of what he does. And what he does is a story of a young man and his horse called Jack.

The eldest son of a labourer, Suresh left home, his studies unfinished, at age 18 in search of better job prospects at Kochi, where he was offered a job as a utility worker at Bolgatty Palace.

It was here that Suresh first met a horse owner who hired him to take care of his horse and give horse rides to children for a salary of Rs.700 plus a commission of 10 per cent.

Within a couple of years, Suresh had collected enough money and in 1989 bought himself a horse from Munnar.

As luck would have it, his boss had to leave the Bolgatty Palace due to unforeseen circumstances and Suresh found himself a permanent job at the palace along with his horse, Jack.

Today, Suresh happens to be the only one in this field in Cochin. For Rs 15, he offers horse rides to children at the palace grounds.

"Jack is everything to me," says Suresh, "He is my bread and butter".

Suresh says he never knew anything about horses earlier, not even to ride one! But today he has mastered the art of horse riding and claims to have complete knowledge regarding the animal.

When asked about the expenses of maintaining one, Suresh says, "It is not easy. The horse needs to be fed at least twice a day. One meal is a kilo of boiled oats and the other a mixture of wheat and rice bran". With expenses soaring, Suresh says his business is not lucrative enough to support his family and Jack.

Business has dropped drastically for Suresh, with the Palace being converted into a hotel. Most of his customers, who earlier visited the island on small boats and canoes, are now unable to approach the Palace except by the local ferry. Any extra money is made from weddings or on festive occasions like birthday parties, when he regales the kids with horse Jack..

When asked about a job switch Suresh says, "I don't know anything else, besides I can't imagine giving up my horse."

Suresh calls Jack his soul mate, and recollects this one time when he had an argument with a local bystander. To Suresh's surprise he found Jack snorting and grunting at the poor chap.

Suresh has become popular because of his occupation and has made a large number of friends and thus learned a variety of languages. He now lives with his wife Sudha and two daughters on the Bolghatty Island.

For Suresh his future seems uncertain, but hopes that one-day horse riding would be promoted as a form of sport for Kochites where he would be able to provide horse-riding lessons.

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