“It’s only a game, he shouted, voice fading on the wind.

Those very words. I could still feel the grip of his fingers where he had held my child’s arm, his hand, large, engulfing it, fingers touching at the tips. A line of grey already infected his beard, though a young man, yet even then retired, a national name. His beard tied back into a second, scruffy chin, a pink turban, his eyes on me, Watch the ball, not me, and again his voice, Watch the ball! But I always looked back into his eyes. Why was he here, why wasn’t he out there, where the newspapermen attacked each other for his photograph, where the radio sang his praises, where all India looked to the holy dirt his feet walked on? It’s only a game, he shouted. They said he had walked with Gandhiji to the sea. They said that he never, not even as a baby, wore anything but homespun. They said that on every corner he passed, an assassin waited – why? – but that divine forces protected him. I launched the cricket ball into the air, and it fell thudding in the hot dirt only a few feet away, a red, undistinguished ball, and he looked at me as though I, personally, had lost Pakistan.”

— from the story “The Order of Things” in Good Indian Girls. Pre-order your copy here.

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