This was the call of 8-yr-old Aliya to her father. He had just taken her out for her first trail ride, which is a ride outside the confines of the fenced riding arena, and it was a big moment for her. She trotted behind her father, nervously looking around, taking in everything around her, but most of all admiring her father who made it all happen. That was a very, very long time ago, and Aliya grew. At the age of 12, as a present for being National Child Gold medalist in show jumping, her father bought her Sunshine, a chestnut mare - Aliya's life, soul and reason for being. Her very own horse, and together, they were a fearful combination at any show. They clicked together, girl and horse, breaking barriers, and winning accolades.

Her father's riding (and some time later, his Tent Pegging) gradually slipped into the background. His style, his upbringing, his foundation was different in every way possible from the conventional methods of riding. But it was different for him, he had been taught at Aligarh Muslim University, in the true university fashion by his uncle Prof. Nasim Ansari, and thus had no patience for things like dressage, and was completely oblivious of concepts of 'impulsion' and the 'correct seat'.

But when Aliya moved out of a riding school, and was left without any instructor, her father rose to the occasion in the greatest manner possible. He bought innumerable books on training young riders, watched countless videos to help Aliya grow. He saw more in her than any instructor ever had, and believed she had the potential to bring home India's first Olympic gold.

It was a dream he treasured, and nurtured in his daughter. It is a dream that lived on through the most trying of times. When Aliya's first true love, Sunshine died in a tragic bout of food poisoning, Aliya was ready to give up. She could not imagine life without her baby, and spent weeks during her 10th grade moping, wallowing in self pity, and crying her lungs out every night. She slept late on Sunday mornings, a concept that until than was thought impossible. Her father suffered with her, but she simply refused to let him in. To cheer her up he bought her a new dog, taught her how to drive, even enrolled her in a new riding school. It seemed pointless, she competed in the Nationals that year, but without any true spirit. Two weeks after the Nationals, things seemed bleak. She refused to get a new horse and didn't want to ride at the new school anymore, where she didn't fit in at all.

On the 19th of January, 2004, Hannibal came into her world. Aliya's father simply refused to let his dream die when Sunshine did, and was prepared to start over completely. Invest in this new horse, who he had no clue about, he just knew that that if he didn't take a drastic step such as this, he could pretty much wave his biggest dream goodbye.

He makes one think of a line from Rudyard Kipling's 'IF'
"If you can make a heap of all your winnings,
And risk it all on one-pitch-and-toss
Lose and start again at the beginning,
And never breathe a word about your loss."

Aliya refused to accept her new horse immediately, can a mother replace her child???
But slowly Hannibal grew on her, and nothing made her father happier. He re-opened all his riding books and started in earnest all over again. Riding before school and after, spending entire weekends not moving from the stable. His dedication was 200%
Aliya knew it, and she made comeback into the riding circuit, before she could completely be classified as a 'has been'.

People were still sceptical. Sunshine had been a special horse, they all knew that, and behind Aliya's back was called a 'pushbutton horse', the term for a horse, who could pretty much carry any rider clear over a course, implying that Aliya had nothing to do with the success of the partnership. People didn't believe that Aliya' fathers unconventional training techniques would take them anywhere, and that Aliya's quirky riding style could lead to nothing but failure on any horse, other than Sunshine. They were wrong on both counts. From the beginning Aliya and Hannibal literally flew to success. And Aliya could only owe her father all the glory she got.

Aliya's father moved on into the next world before he could truly fulfill his dream of the Olympic gold medal. But he equipped her in every way to carry on trying. She inherited his indomitable passion, his willpower, her golden horse, and most all the fighting spirit to keep moving ahead.

In her, his dream lives on……..



Shangon Das Gupta. 2006. Copyrights Reserved. Designed by Kaveri Communications