Wednesday, August 19, 2009


As the jumbo-sized board flashed the schedule for the next race, I was a agog. I was about to witness my first 'live' horse-race, though betting wasn't my cup of tea. On the stroke of three all hell broke loose as the rabble of punters from the stands behind me jumped to their feet shouting themselves hoarse, goading on their beloved beasts. I craned my neck for a better view of the starting-gate, anticipating the clatter of hooves and a cloud of dust.

But there was no flurry of activity out there and nothing remotely resembling a quadruped raced in from that direction. Before long, the commotion in the stands died down as the punters stopped horsing around and went about their business of either licking their wounds or placing fresh stakes. And I hadn't a clue as to what the heck was going on.

It had been my lifelong dream to watch race horses in action that had allured me, a rank rookie, to the racetracks during one of my visits to the local 'Ascot.' I had entered the portals of the racecourse after a bit of dilly-dallying, exercising great vigilance, guarding against bumping into someone from my my middle-class residential locality where horse racing was considered a taboo. But once in, I sneaked past the milling crowds in the bookie's lounge before reaching the stands to occupy the vacant front row for a ring-side view of the momentous event.

And imagine my chagrin when I became part of what looked like an elaborate hoax contrived by gangs of delirious dudes and hidden horses! For a moment, I thought that the whole rigmarole had been stage-managed exercise for a movie shoot. But then, there were no tell-tale sighs such as the camera, the clapboard and the reflector! And I didn't want to make a fool of myself by enquiring about the mystery.

Within the next hour, the crazy cycle of events - of frenzied crowds howling at the empty racetrack and then abrupt silence - was repeated thrice, pushing me deeper into to bewilderment. After the fourth round of farce, I decided to take the matter into my hands and find out what it was that others saw and I didn't.
Analysing my handicap, I concluded that the seats in the rear might provide a vantage point to view the enigmatic proceedings. Accordingly, I moved back a few rows and jockeying for space, installed myself firmly in the saddle.

And when the next round of hullabaloo began, I saw them - the magnificent horses in all their galloping glory - not on the track but on the screen of a giant TV monitor hanging from the ceiling. Subtle enquiries revealed that it was a live transmission of Pune races, on which punters were placing their bets.

With the spectacle turning into a damp squib, I left the venue thoroughly chastised, never to return. And I buried the humiliation deep inside my memory, never letting anyone in on my secret. Until now.

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1 comment:

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