It was the case of that tyranny of the weak over the strong which somewhere in one of my plays I describe as being “the only tyranny that lasts.”
—Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

“The palace itself.”

That phrase was my first glimpse into the strangeness of being with Rose in London.

“Kensington Palace Gardens? Or Kensington High Street,” the taxi driver had asked.

“The palace itself,” Rose answered, in a voice that was hushed but firm.

It was April. Today had given me a two-week trial at the London office. I was to go for “an interview-slash-orientation” with the magazine’s new Europe editor. That would allow me to get the feel of the place—the city, the job—and if all went well, I would begin working there soon after. Rose, still finishing up at the Rhode Island School of Design, said she would join me for the last weekend. We would see her parents, then go up to their house in the country, the place where she felt most at home in England.

On the Thursday she was due to arrive, I sat in the Reporters Room at Today’s offices at Brettenham House. Out of curved Critall windows, I saw a sluggish shitake-colored river and a low damp city, stamped with cloud shadows. There was a pub downstairs, the Savoy Tup, and a garden by the embankment where I had eaten a Pret lunch every day. Near where I sat there was a statue of a woman weeping at the bust of a Victorian man, who gazed off into the distance, the visage cool and indifferent. The words, varnished with rain, read: “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon.

I could have read that in any other city in the world, under any statue, and thought nothing of it. But here, in the whited sepulchre, former capital of Empire, this Victorian sentimentality irked me. How odd that this sober and frosty people, so uniquely unable to express emotion, should at the moment of their greatest rapacity, as they were inhaling great segments of the earth, have been so kitschy. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist”—lines I had committed to memory in my mother’s bookshop in Delhi returned to me—“betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mark of cruelty.

I threw away my Pret box and walked back to the office along a path lined with flower beds. Other lunchers sat in the wet grass, oblivious of the misty rain. There were magnolias in the leafless trees, their petals dripping. It was all beautiful, pink-on-gray, but I felt an inner resistance. America had been so easy. American nature had not been force-fed to us as children. We had not sat, in hot airless classrooms in the foothills of the Himalayas, the desiccating May heat gathering outside, reading of dances with American daffodils, or American seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness. It was the memory of England’s nature, imposed on us out of time, to the detriment of our own—jacaranda, laburnum, and flamboyant all in flower—that rankled. I recalled my mother coming back one burning hot day to Delhi from a trip in England, having visited the Lake District. I picked her up at the airport, as we did in those days when anyone returned home from abroad, and she said, with something like wonder in her voice, “All my life I’ve read of rolling hills, and never known what they were until now.”

How odd that this sober and frosty people, so uniquely unable to express emotion, should at the moment of their greatest rapacity, as they were inhaling great segments of the earth, have been so kitschy.

London was a city in flower, visually transfixing. The gleam of white-bordered windows against dull yellow brick, the enamel of taxis, the lumbering red of the buses. British high-street brands—Foxtons, Orange, Pret, “HaichSBC”—the names, the colors, impressed themselves upon me, suggesting a drab corporate sameness greater than I had ever felt in America as I went about the motions of moving to a new city: house, phone, lunch, bank.

I had been lucky in my apartment—or so I thought, till I heard a friend of Rose’s brother, Lord Christian, say, “He lives in a flat on the wrong side of the King’s Road.” It belonged to an absentee South African landlord and it was above a shop that sold door fixtures called Knobs and Knockers. The interiors were beautiful, all seagrass and brocade. There was a deepbath tub, a gas fire. I loved returning there after work on the Number 11 bus, sitting on top, watching the stunted line of shops, in mauves and pinks, sail by below, the side streets full of treasures, such as John Sandoe’s bookshop. If New York was the city of the avenue, broad and glitzy, the side streets standing in supporting roles, London felt to me like a city of the side street—intimate, residential, a city of dinner parties at people’s homes—where in the distance the lit roof light of the taxi you needed glided by.

As a city of foreigners, rather than immigrants, it suited me, Aleramo Singh Brusetti, almost better than New York. My colonial background left me half-in, half-out, and that condition was like a mirror to my sexuality. America demanded one unpack one’s bags, assimilate, Britain was happy to leave you forever in the pristine liminality of a boarding lounge. And I had been wrong in being so single-minded in my associations: London was no more the capital of Empire than it was the Tudor town of Shakespeare. Which is to say it was, but it was so much else besides, a place above all to which a new life had come. In New York, for all its alleged indifference to the mainland, one felt the presence of the American enterprise swarming at its back. In Britain, even among those whose ancestors had been its face, the national edifice itself, let alone the colonial one, had fallen away, leaving behind a great seaward facing house of gaping windows, where only London remained.

I left my keys that Thursday morning with the shop attendant at Knobs and Knockers.

“Rose Windishgrates,” she read carefully, taking the Today envelope. “No relation of Barbara Windishgrates, I’m guessing?”

“None.” I smiled to myself.

“And when will she be around then? Don’t forget: we close at five, luv.”

“Well before then.”

Rose was waiting for me when I came home, languishing, her hair in a towel turban, a vodka on her lap. She had taken a bath in my vast tub.

“Baby,” she gasped and cast her eyes theatrically about the flat. “Look who’s settled into London beautifully. Well done!”

It was that same broad smile I had known in America, arresting in its guilelessness, but there was also something careful about her now—a watchfulness. This was the first time I had seen Rose outside America. But it was also the first time I had seen her in England. There was a vigilance about her here, a weary knowing quality, a leashed reserve. She played up her ease for my benefit, but our initial conversation was stilted.

“I have done well, haven’t I?”

“Very well. It’s been—what?—two weeks? I’m so impressed.”

“Not even.”

“Come here,” she said, and pulled me in for a kiss.

The kiss turned into an embrace; and, in that memory of comfort, of safety in America, I felt something come out that she had not been prepared to put into words a moment before. “We’re in the thick of it now,” she said and grinned, but there was real fear in her eyes.

“In the thick of what?”

It. What I spent my whole life escaping. I hope you’re ready … ”

“What should I expect?”

“Well, we have dinner with my parents tonight. At Maggie Jones, no less. Then we’re going up to the country. It’s the full nine yards,” she said, taking a deep sip of her drink and laughing nervously.

“Who’s Maggie Jones?”

“The least of our problems, believe me!”

Despite her fears, I felt that she was enjoying herself. And later I remembered that moment so well, when fear was real, but we were still so firmly contra mundum. She was happy. I made her happy. My being in England made her happy. It was a fresh start. She was ready to believe this time would be different. I felt she was protecting me from how England made her feel, almost as if she hoped that the newness of my outlook, my optimism and ignorance, would change her view of a country she had always felt the need to define herself against.

“The palace itself.”

“Aright then,” the cabbie said, as if drawn into an experience that was vaguely humiliating. Rose looked over at me. There was nothing to say. I only half understood the inner vibrations of what had occurred. In India, privilege was written into daily life. Some drove cars while others, less fortunate, cycled, walked, or rode on scooters. Some spoke English, others spoke Hindi. The advantages of Anglophone India did not need stating. But here the taxi had picked up a passenger, as he might have picked up any passenger. And it was by stealth—her accent, her bearing, her extraordinary choice of destination—that her position was announced, louder for having come so softly. The air grew heavy with unsaid things. Not least my presence as her companion. In America, I might have passed for any number of nationalities. Here I felt, in our commonwealth, that everyone knew who and what I was at a glance. Pakito.

Soon we were moving, lurching from street to connecting street, forging a course north past intersecting arterial streets—the Fulham Road, the Brompton Road, the Cromwell Road, and finally Kensington High Street—that were yet unfamiliar to me, but were like national boundaries to the English, especially those I would meet with Rose. Each enclosed a neighborhood and, if you lived there, revealed something about who you were: “Ah, she’s a Chelsea girl at heart.” “A Sloane Ranger.” Each meant something different, each featured somewhere in the calculations the English did in their heads, and for which everyone else needed paper.

Rose gestured to the driver to turn down a long discreet drive, marked by a sign that said, “PRIVATE ROAD.” It was easily missed. An opening in the high street, with no indication of where it led save a lion and unicorn rampant on either side of two red brick pillars. We drove down a cambered street along a high brick wall that bulged in places. We hardly spoke. I was lost in the reverie of the new town, in pubs overloaded with window boxes full of geraniums and plane trees with new leaves and pale mottled trunks. Now I sat up, for we had come to a police barrier, manned by a male and female officer in fluorescent-green vests with walkie-talkies.

“We have dinner with my parents tonight. At Maggie Jones, no less.”

A woman’s face appeared at the window, brightening at the sight of Rose. The barrier rose. We were waved through, even as the cabbie’s discomfiture grew. My newness, Rose’s reserve, the cabbie’s quiet resentment—it was a glistering new tension, animated by what felt to me like secret lines of trespass.

It was by stealth—her accent, her bearing, her extraordinary choice of destination—that her position was announced, louder for having come so softly.

“Just over there. A little further on and then right. It’s Number 12,” Rose said, making the apartments seem as ordinary as house numbers on a street, even though they were unmarked.

We stopped in front of a short flight of stairs that ran up to a black door, overhung by a single light of clear glass, wrought iron, picked out in gold. There were cottages and porticoed corridors, palace secretary’s offices and tradesmen’s entrances. Rose was right: it was ordinary, a warren of dark-brick apartments and offices, like a cross between a military hospital and an old-people’s home, haunted by the ghosts of its more famous residents, Princess Margaret and Diana.

“We don’t have time for a tour,” Rose said, “but I did want to show you something.”

She led me by the hand to a recessed door in a brick wall, over which dead tendrils of ivy were slowly returning to life.

“It was Diana’s garden,” she said, opening a wooden door. “My mother took it over when she died. Now she won’t give it back!”

The door opened onto a storybook garden of lavender and yew. At the center was a dark rectangular pond with broad unornamented edges of gray stone blotched with pale green and yellow lichen. On one side, Princess Albert had erected a glass gazebo, which Rose called a tent. It had Moroccan lanterns, striped silk bolsters, low sofas. A pleasure palace midst all this dreary functionality. It reminded me of the princess’s flamboyance. I already looked forward to seeing her again. Against the dour austerity of this England, she felt familiar somehow, Eastern, gossipy and warm, like a Bohemian Scheherazade. What a shock it must have been for her to marry into this family! What would it be for me? Race mingled with foreignness mingled with class—and, for a moment, I wondered if Princess Albert’s warmth toward me had in part been the need for an ally within her own house, which in this case was not merely something of brick and mortar.

The evidence of Princess Albert’s flamboyance, a note of whimsy, followed us into Apartment Number 12. There were blue satin rooms with chinoiserie and window seats on which Burmese cats sat, leaping off at the sight of us, the soft thud of their paws against the carpeted floor making us aware of the silence in the apartment. A staircase, as in a five-bedroom town house, rose four floors high. The air smelled of a scented candle, fig perhaps. Princess Albert, the former decorator, had left her mark on the place—in red lacquer tables laden with books and white porcelain elephants on porphyry mantelpieces—but here it was the aspects of the apartment that she had left untouched that struck me as more evocative: the linoleum floor in the kitchen with its yellow Formica counter, warped in places, which spoke somehow of small televisions, expired elderflower water, and the malaise of the 1960s and 1970s, strikes, shortages, the Aberfan mining disaster; there were commodes, with rattan lids and wooden seats, which took one back even further; there was a nursery upstairs, with deep bathtubs and slanting square-edged lunettes, where Christian and Rose still had their rooms—and Princess Albert, her office.

It was the domesticity of the lives lived within this strange complex, I remember thinking even then, that enthralled. We are so rarely in a position to observe what is truly new, to see well through eyes that are unprepared. I don’t know how much I understood of the complex new society, underwritten by unfamiliar manners and codes, that I found myself in. But my impressions were vivid. I remember Rose so well that day as she went about various banal tasks of dropping off a bag, collecting new clothes, looking for a pair of earrings, all blue feathers and red jewels, that an admiring Indian jeweler designer had sent her. I lay on that soft single bed, gazing up at the wallpaper, a red pattern of leaves and flowers against a cream ground—Enid’s Ramble, Rose called it—that seemed like a parody of the English nostalgia for the nursery, of shared nannies and childhood associations. It was so grand, yet so understated. When Rose was dressed, she pointed out of the nursery window to a roof terrace of sorts, and said with a giggle: “We used to watch Diana sunbathe naked over there.”

With his beard and fine white hair combed back over a suntanned pate, he really did look like the last czar.

“Children, over here! You’re late,” Princess Albert’s voice trilled.

The ceilings of Maggie Jones were hung with copper pots and pans and bushels of hay and straw. What in America would have been farm-to-table was in England a hectic paean to rustic life. We picked our way past wooden booths, with candles in champagne bottles, dripping fresh wax over old, to where Princess Albert sat, hair tied back, wearing a beige cashmere sweater.

“Bertie is late too,” she said, offering me her hand, and a smile so effusive that I could not tell if it masked some deeper irritation. “He’s at some dreary do at the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce.” When I took her hand, she said, “Ale!”—true warmth entering her eyes—“you’re here. Tell me everything. Are they being good to you at your magazine? How is England treating you?”

“Ma’am,” I said, making a feeble attempt at a bow.

“None of that,” she said, squeezing my hand. “Darlings, come sit down. What will you drink? I’ve told them to chill vodka for you. How was the flight over?”

“It was fine. Thank you, Mamma.”

She pointed out of the nursery window to a roof terrace of sorts, and said with a giggle: “We used to watch Diana sunbathe naked over there.”

“I’ve been lost in the world of Francois premier. Ale, do you speak French?”

Oui, mais c’est un peu rouillé,” I ventured, recalling my college French.

Rouillé!” Princess Albert beamed, then, her expression souring, said, “Rose, ever the contrarian, opted for Spanish. No doubt to be as far from us as possible.”

“Not true.”

“We’re connected, through Albert and me, to every major royal family in Europe. But Spain is a blind spot,” Princess Albert said, as if apologizing for the absence of a rare liquor (Cynar, say) in her bar.

“So is France,” Rose said waspishly.

They had the kind of mother-daughter relationship, where a minefield of tiny wounds had been installed and were constantly being picked at, triggering reactions no third person could understand.

“True, true. Those warm-blooded Latins,” Princess Albert laughed. “Great for le bonkage, not so good for bloodlines!”

I laughed, sloughing off nerves, and recalling how incredibly stilted Princess Albert’s conversation could be. She was (unlike so many) all bullshit on the surface, but beneath that mannered veneer, there lay a deeper warmer person, full of intimacy, indiscretion, and the mothering protectiveness of a hausfrau.

The arrival of Prince Albert a moment later caused a stir in the restaurant. A few people from the waitstaff—a plump younger girl and a trim older man—stood at the door as he came in, a slim gliding figure in a dark suit, followed by a single policeman. Never did I see a man wear a suit with more panache than him. He made it seem so natural. And, with his beard and fine white hair combed back over a suntanned pate, he really did look like the last czar.

I had not met him yet, and watched (a little in awe) as the stout younger girl sank into a curtsy. Her colleague’s head, as if some vital string had been cut, dropped automatically, chin to chest. I had grown up among gestures of obeisance far more exaggerated than these, but found it nonetheless amazing to see them among a people as reserved as the English. They were almost involuntary, performed with the ease of people who had internalized the dictates of tradition and were bound as if by a secret compact. Like the stations of Muslim prayer, or the sign of the cross over one’s chest, the rituals of bowing and curtsying both excluded me, an outsider, while also leaving me vaguely impressed. Prince Albert expected them; he seemed even to pause for them; but no sooner had he received them, as if on behalf of another, than he was affable, full of banter, inquiring now after the family of the staff, now confirming what a wet spring it had been indeed.

“It’ll be summer soon,” the older man said.

“I love the English summer, sir,” the girl laughed brightly. “It’s my favorite day of the year.”

Prince Albert threw his head back and laughed uproariously, then composed himself and stood a moment longer shaking in mute amusement, laughing into his thick white beard.

I was watching this spectacle of the English with their family, the family. It was a world away from how they behaved around other celebrities, politicians, performers, actors. It was more intimate. They seemed to know each other. Or, at least, to know the origin of their affinity. And there was no embarrassment, no shame at being awestruck. I imagined it must be how a Catholic would behave around the Pope. There was prestige and reverence involved, but also a shared sense of ownership, as if both parties knew they were serving something bigger than themselves, and the feeling it inspired in them was good, and proper, and true. Prince Albert came toward us now, twinkling blue eyes planted on Rose, arms outstretched.

In the periphery of my vision, past a bottle of champagne serving as a candlestick, the gold of its collar covered in wax, I saw Princess Albert gesture to me to get up, and given her earlier informality, this was a surprise that caught me unawares. I rose awkwardly, getting in the way of Rose hugging her father, then sat back down, then rose again.

Princess Albert look dismayed.

“Sir,” I said, managing at last an uneven gormless nodding of my head. Again—as with “ma’am” in New York—these once familiar words came out sounding different, as if their old feudal meaning had been restored to them.

“Good, good,” Prince Albert said, half taking me in, half seeming embarrassed by my presence. It was evident that he was incredibly shy. More than his children, more even than his wife, he took refuge in manners, in the protection they offered from exposing one’s personality to any save a chosen few.

No sooner had he sat down than he turned to his wife and said something in German. She replied in a snappy fusillade.

There was no embarrassment, no shame at being awestruck. I imagined it must be how a Catholic would behave around the Pope.

German! It had not even occurred to me. It made perfect sense, of course. Not only was Prince Albert’s paternal side mostly German; his maternal side—all those princes of Greece and Denmark—were German, too. And, hearing this short exchange, between husband and wife in German, in this most English of English restaurants, gave me a glimpse into how exotic the family really was, how foreign. They made a point of projecting localness—we were soon discussing whether Princess Albert would join the Duke of Beaufort’s Hounds at Rodmarton that weekend—but, in truth, they were foreigners in an island country where that word was used as an expletive. Moreover, they were cosmopolitan; not just in the glamorous sense of the word; but in that truer 20th-century sense of statelessness and exile, of nations that had ceased to be nations. Their direct family history was one of coups, assassinations, and revolution. They pretended to be part of an English continuity, but theirs was not the world of Wodehouse and Waugh; theirs was the world of Joseph Roth and Stefan Zweig, whom, I saw now, they could read in the original.

“What are you having, darling?” Prince Albert asked, turning to Rose with a tenderness that revealed the closeness between father and daughter.

“The usual.”

“Maggie’s fish pie and a vodka the size of Stroud?”

Prince Albert, aware again of my presence, turned to me: “Is this your first time here?”


“Then, you must have the Stilton mousse. It’s something of a family affair, this place,” he said, looking about the restaurant. “It’s not to everyone’s taste, of course, but they treat us well here, don’t they, darling? Maggie, you see, was my cousin Margaret. She was married to a photographer called Jones, Armstrong-Jones … ”

“Bertie, I’m sure he knows who Princess Margaret was,” Princess Albert said with exasperation.

Thus the name, you see,” Prince Albert continued, oblivious of the interruption, “Maggie Jones.”

I had never met a couple wired so differently. Princess Albert made even the remotest figures from history—“my cousin Shah Jehan, to whom I am related through Michael Paleologus VII”—seem like her nearest kin, while making the living members of her husband’s family seem remote. “BP has told us … ” I would later hear her say. She only ever spoke of the Queen as the Queen, never Lillibet. Whereas Prince Albert was almost purposefully blind to the fact that his family was anything but his family, from the sovereign downward.

Dinner arrived. Pot pies and leek tarts, bangers and mash, a rump of lamb. There was “a nice claret” going around. I looked at Rose through a fog of nerves. What did she feel? How did she think I was doing? There was no way to know. In America, one would have known immediately. But, here, in what felt like a conspiracy of reticence, one just had to carry on, trying as best as one could not to lose one’s nerve. The account would be tallied later, much later, and, perversely, the less one tried to fit in the easier it would be.

Prince Albert was now telling stories of India, of caterwauling women at the birthdays of the maharajas. Adopting an Indian accent and giving a yes-no nod of his head, he told me how much he loved road signs in India, such as: “After Whisky Driving Is Risky” and “Better Be Mr. Late than Late Mr.” After each of these, he succumbed to silent wheezing fits of laughter, his eyes twinkling in the direction of Rose.

Seeing an opening, I ventured, “In Corbett Park … ”

“Ah, Corbett Park!” Prince Albert exhaled, as if I had said a magic word.

“There is a sign that reads: ‘The Ram Ganga River Is Infested with Crocodiles … ’”

Prince Albert looked at me in pure amazement as if I knew the rules to a game that had only ever been played in his nursery.

“Go on,” he said, with almost childish excitement.

“The Ram Gunga River Is Infested with Crocodiles … ” I began again.

“Yes … yes.”

“Swimming Is Strictly Prohibited.”

He was already laughing.

“Survivors Will Be Prosecuted!”

Prince Albert paused for a second, then gave a roar of laughter. “Wonderful, wonderful! And this chap, you see, the one who would have written the rule—he was not meaning to be funny, correct … ?”

“No, not at all.”

“That’s the part I find wonderful, you see. That’s what gives us our shared affinity with India. Mrs. Thatcher, for instance, had no sense of humor whatsoever, but she was hilarious. We are so very alike, the English and the Indians. Don’t you find?”

I did not find. In fact I found there was something a little grasping in this need to establish shared affinities with a people you kept firmly on unequal footing when you had the chance; but, at the same time, it felt odd to contest it, given this man’s uncle was the last emperor of India.

Rose grinned encouragingly. Princess Albert looked at me with bottomless fatigue. “Well, you wanted to come to England,” she seemed to say, “you’re in England now. Is it all you thought it would be?”

Princess Albert, having allowed this concession to English humor, in which she seemed to see a betrayal, now commandeered the conversation. She was soon telling me about how she had found Weston Neston, a ruined manor house, and restored it from scratch. The house had a pair of famous gates that had been made by a condemned blacksmith.

“The hanging judge, who sentenced him, had offered him a reprieve on the condition that he make him a pair of gates. So the blacksmith went away,” Princess Albert said, “and toiled day and night on the most perfect gates he had ever made. They were his masterpiece, a symphony in wrought iron,” she effused, causing Rose and her father to flinch slightly at her exuberance.

There was something a little grasping in this need to establish shared affinities with a people you kept firmly on unequal footing when you had the chance.

“But Judge Burns, having accepted the gates, then claimed he could see a flaw in them. He hung the blacksmith and that is why they say the house is cursed … ”

“Not cursed, darling, haunted.”

“Bertie, I know the difference. I mean, cursed. Verflucht. The judge’s son hung himself there in the nursery—and, on certain nights, his stallion is said to bolt through the open gates. Do you ride?” She asked me suddenly, as if I might consider riding this particular horse.

“A little, yes,” I said, “But I haven’t in years.”

“Of course you do. What is India if not polo and gymkhanas?”

It was so odd to be around what felt like a familiarity with India and then to hear it described in terms that made it feel unfamiliar to me, who had grown up there, as if it were another country, their country. In the middle of this conversation, Rose whispered something to me that I wished later I had not repeated. She said, “And, baby, cricket was invented in India, wasn’t it?”

Out of that tendency we have, as human beings, to undermine a mutual friend who has brought us together with someone whom we want to impress, I made a joke of what Rose had said without realizing what a trauma it was for her. She had grown up with a father who quizzed her on general knowledge, history, and capitals at the breakfast table, making her feel stupid.

“Cricket, Rose?” I blurted. “No. It wasn’t invented in India. It was the sport of Empire.” Your family’s Empire, I wanted to say. “We all play cricket—in New Zealand, in South Africa, in the West Indies, and the subcontinent—for that reason. Don’t you have a phrase here about something not being cricket … ?”

“What did she say?” Princess Albert boomed.

Rose wilted.

Prince Albert, nearer us, had heard it all and said, somewhat accusingly, as if education was the mother’s prerogative.

“She asked him whether cricket was invented in India.”

Princess Albert was brutal in her contempt, then a look of blazing incredulity entered her face. “There are gaps,” she said, shaking her head, and speaking as if into the air. “There are gaps.”

Outside, the night had turned damp and rain misted the flagstones on Ken High Street.

“Thank you for doing that,” Rose said, “thank you for putting up with them.”

We walked along, lost in the after-effects of dinner, oblivious to the world around us. But all the time, as we had been eating and talking, calibrating our personalities and expectations to a universe of four, we had been watched. By other diners, by the staff of the restaurant, by a stringer or two who always followed the royal couple around. These watchful eyes had seen the prince and princess dining with their beautiful statuesque daughter, who, unlike her brother, had gone away for college to America. She was back for a break with a swarthy young stranger, dining with the prince and princess in the environs of the palace. The story, you see, writes itself … There was a sudden movement. A figure ran ahead of the flow of human traffic on Ken High Street. Rose and I barely looked up when we felt, rapid and fast as a volley of bullets, a burst of clicks and flashes. Rose groaned, then grabbing my hand, she said:

“Quick, baby, a taxi!”

Aatish Taseer is the author of, most recently, The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges. This is the first chapter to be published of his next novel, In Their Country