Trying to get my t-shirt

Instead of competing at the stadium, I just stayed at the hotel all day, suffering from fever. The day after that I decided to go to the Veterans Games office to get my T-shirt.

I said, “I could not join in the competition, but can I get my T-shirt?”

The man in the office said, “Yes, but not now. Come back after an hour.”

An hour later again I went there to get this precious thing — a T-shirt! This time they said, “You don’t get the T-shirt here. You get it somewhere else. Go there in two or three hours.”

A third time I went for my T-shirt. This time the place was closed.

The following day I went there at 9:30. Outside the stadium the race-walking competition was going on. Four different groups started together, but each was covering a different distance.

When I went inside the office, I noticed that quite a few Sikhs were there. If you call them Sardar-ji — which means leader — immediately their hearts melt. But this time they all started telling lies.

One of them said, “Yes, you will get your T-shirt, but first let me introduce you to the manager. His name is Ghuli.”

So Ghuli and I chatted. Then Ghuli told me, “Yes, we will give you the T-shirt, but come at twelve o’clock. Now I am very busy.”

I asked Ghuli if I could speak to Milka Singh. Once upon a time I was his great admirer. He used to be called India’s ‘flying Sikh’. In one Olympics he stood among the top finishers in a photo-finish race. He did not stand first, but for an Indian to even be in a photo-finish with three Americans was really something.

When I asked for Milka Singh, Ghuli said, “Who is Milka Singh?” He meant it was beneath his dignity to introduce me to him. Then he said, “You come at twelve o’clock. You don’t have to see Milka Singh.”

— 31 March 1983