Passion, not profession, draws these UP horsemen to Odisha

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By Dillip Kumar Pradhan

Bhubaneswar/Cuttack: People use black horse shoe iron (ghoda naal in Odia) in house to keep evil spirits and bad luck away. But luck seems to have deserted the horsemen who sell the item on the roadside in Odisha.

Many of the horsemen, coming from as far as Uttar Pradesh and Delhi NCR, are found selling the horse shoe iron along the national Highway between Cuttack-Bhubaneswar-Chandikhol.

While a horse shoe iron (naal) fetches them no more than Rs 150 to Rs 250 a piece, a windfall gain comes once in a while when they lend the horses on rent for as much as Rs 15, 000 to Rs 18, 000 for marriage ceremonies. But such windfalls benefit the owner of the horse and not the man who tends to it.

“The owner takes away all the money and pays us a salary of Rs 5,000 per month in return,” said Sapu, a native of Uttar Pradesh, selling his ware on NH 16 near Tangi in Cuttack district.

Like Sapu, many others from his fraternity have come from Silangpur area in Delhi NCR region and are doing the same job under a middleman. They say it is not the Rs 5,000 or 6,000 they earn per month, but their passion for horse riding that has brought them to Odisha.

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“Horse riding is my passion. So, I am doing it even though I get a small amount by way of salary. As I and some others are still bachelors, we somehow manage with the little amount,” another horseman Chhatu said.

They can’t switch over to any other profitable business as they are mostly illiterate and are averse to getting into agriculture or daily wage labour which involve heavy physical work. “I cannot think of any other job which can give me a better income. I can neither do cultivation work nor daily wage labour. I cannot do some office job either as I am illiterate,” said class-I dropout Chhatu, who can only sign his name.

The horsemen say it is the prospect of better earnings that has brought them to Odisha. “As the business is rampant in Delhi and UP, our kin are getting only Rs 3,000 or 4,000. But, the earnings are a little higher here. Besides, our food, accommodation and horse maintenance is taken care of by the owner here,” he added.

This apart, Odisha is a safe haven for them unlike the national capital region or their native State, where police and local hooligans make life difficult for them, says Chhatu.

Black horse shoe iron (Ghoda naal) is fixed on the outer door of the house to keep evil spirits away. Astrology says any malefic effect caused due to Saturn stays away if somebody wears a ring made of the naal on the middle finger.

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