A Golden Age

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam Read Free Book Online

Book: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tahmima Anam
victory.
The oval-shaped stadium was packed with families who’d arrived with picnics and cones full of spicy puffed rice, come to clap, feel the sun burning the tops of their heads, peer into the glittering afternoon and watch their heroes at play.
Rehana had made chicken sandwiches. She opened the paper- wrapped package and passed it to Sohail, who was sitting in the next row with his friend Aref and Aref’s brother, Joy. ‘Very nice,’ Sohail said, taking a bite. He gave her the barest hint of a smile and passed the sandwiches to his friends.
Rehana, Maya and Mrs Sengupta were sitting together. ‘Have they set a wedding date?’ Mrs Sengupta asked.
‘No,’ Rehana muttered.
‘She’s so young,’ Mrs Sengupta said, rolling her sunglasses to the top of her head. ‘What’s the rush?’
Rehana wanted to agree, but instead she squeezed Mrs Sengupta’s elbow. ‘Let’s have some drinks,’ she said.
Sohail waved to the drinks boy. ‘Who wants lemonade and who wants orange?’ He counted the raised hands and reached into his pocket.
     
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‘No, please, I insist,’ Mrs Sengupta said, holding out her hand.
‘Oh,’ Sohail said, ‘all right.’ And he sat down.
Now the crowd was cheering and blocking Rehana’s view with its waving arms. She wanted to get a good look at Azmat while he was still at the crease, so she climbed up on to the bench and peered over the long rows of dark heads in front of her, her hand raised to her eyes. Giddiness was everywhere. Rehana felt a laugh start at her feet and climb up her legs. She began to giggle with her mouth open. She tilted her head back and squinted at the sun, brilliant, invisible in its mid-afternoon blaze. It might be, she thought, the happiest day of her life. Never mind all that hangama with Silvi; Sohail would soon forget it. Look at him now, linking hands with his friends and cheering at the cricket. Rehana fanned her face, heating up as the afternoon bloomed on.
Maya, turning to look beside her, was startled to find her mother climbing down from the bench. ‘Ammoo, what are you doing?’
‘I told you before, I love Azmat Rana. So handsome, he reminds me of your father. We are definitely winning today. Have some more lemonade, Maya,’ she said, passing her daughter the bottle. Always too sober, she thought to herself. What’s the big deal? Only a little cheering.
     
Nigel Gifford, arm wooden against his side, prepared to run at Azmat Rana.
Maya settled back into her seat and stared at the pitch with her arms crossed in front of her. In the next row Sohail was arguing with his friends. They were saying something about the military- industrial complex. Sohail was insisting it didn’t matter whether they were a part of Pakistan or not; the injustices towards the poor would continue unless they changed the way the economy was organized. Rehana could almost recite the speech from memory. Aref said the important thing was that the assembly should convene as soon as possible and make Mujib Prime
     
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Minister. Without that, the whole election would be revealed as a sham, and who knew what would happen.
Just as Nigel Gifford raised his right hand and prepared to release the worn red ball from his fingertips and send it, straight as a bullet, through the air to Azmat, who waited with bent knees and bat tilted against the sharp, cloudless afternoon sun, the crowd shifted, tensed. They felt it together, in the open intimacy of the packed stadium.
People began to get up and wave their fists in the air. A roar climbed through the stadium. They didn’t appear to be cheering for the players. The players stared up from the pitch, their shoul- ders raised in confusion. Rehana looked around her, and the crowd, a moment ago a mass of cheering fans, looked restless; their eyes were angry white specks; the cricket was forgotten, the puffed rice, the picnics, the drums. It was as though everyone knew before they knew; it almost didn’t matter what, just that their huge,

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