FROM A GAME OF
POLO WITH A
By: Anjouli Suryakumar
Dina El Alfy
In this extract from A Game of Polo with a Headless goat, Emma Levine
writes about a donkey race she watched in Karachi. This being one of the
many unusual sports she observed on her adventure. She describes how she
waited for the race to start with two men, also including how they positioned
themselves so that they could film the race. She then moves on to telling the
reader about the situation throughout the race and in detail describes the
movement of the two donkeys in the front. After the race is over she starts
informing the reader about how violent the situation became when one of the
donkeys tripped, hence losing and the commotion it caused amongst the people
who had a stake in the race.
After graduating in 1992, I left England for Asia armed with a camera and
thirst for adventure. The plan was for six months; it ended up being eight years.
It began with discovering cricket culture in Old Delhi, and ended up living in
Istanbul, via working and travelling to Pakistan, China, Iran and Syria, and many
While living in Hong Kong, from 1992, my photographic and journalistic career
took off: Capturing grass-roots Indian cricket culture led to the exhibition
Height of Passion, and was also the inspiration behind Cricket, a Kind of
Pilgrimage and Into the Passion of Sub continental Cricket . The huge trip to
research A Game of Polo with a Headless Goat included my first journeys to
Central Asia for their wonderful horseback sports.
On returning to England in 1999 with a base in north London, recent journeys
have covered subjects as diverse as women's sports in Islamic societies in
Pakistan, the rebuilding of Beirut, and writing guidebooks to Hong Kong,
Istanbul and Dublin. Still a sports nut, I follow the demise (and undoubted rise)
of Bradford City football club.
“In late 1997 I set off on a 13-month trip to find out what keeps
ancient sports alive: The journey took me around weird and
wonderful parts of Asia, to see amazing buzkashi (Kyrgyzstan,
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan), donkey racing (Karachi),
traditional wrestling (Delhi, Lahore), oil wrestling and horseback
javelin (Turkey), the house of strength (Iran) and cock-fighting
(Tashkent and Quetta). It gave me a wonderful insight into the
region, and independent travel by land and sea brought
adventures galore. A word of advice: Don't try hitch-hiking over
the Shandur Pass in Pakistan between September and March,
unless you don't mind taking two days for the journey!”
• In terms of structure, this text has been done in a way that all the main events
• In the first three paragraphs:
• She describes how she waited for about an hour for the race to start
• She describes the setting.
• She tells the readers how each of them were positioned in the car;
she prepares the reader for the race.
• During paragraphs four to six:
• She describes what happens throughout the race itself.
• She focuses on the two donkeys in the front, what it was like around
her and how her vehicle was moving.
• Throughout the last paragraphs, she describes how the violent the
situation became, and how she thought it better to leave.
• The text is structured just like a race, with a beginning, middle and end. Each
segment includes 3 paragraphs.
• This was Formula One without rules
• This metaphor not only shows how crowded the area was, but relates to
the audience by showing them that they are similarly excited.
Furthermore, it shows that they find the race as intriguing as the
audience finds Formula One
•A city-centre rush hour gone anarchic
• This metaphor re-emphasizes the crowdedness and noise. It conveys the
atmosphere more conveniently by relating to the audiences personal
• Coming, coming
• This repetition shows how much they were waiting and the anticipation
of both the drivers and the author
• The road straightened and levelled
• The personification represents how even the world around them awaited
the outcome of the race and may even express the feelings of the people
living in the area
Language and Diction
• Words and phrases try to bring out the humour of the race:
• The ‘Wacky Races’ – This reference in the first paragraph to a famous
TV cartoon series puts the race in a comic text
• His language growing more colourful – This shows the energy and
attachment each person has to the races
• I don’t even have my licence yet because I’m underage - This shows the
carelessness of the people over there especially during the race and
also brings about humour from her probable reaction to being driven by
an underage driver
• An inexperienced, underage driver causing a massive pile-up in the
middle of the high stakes donkey race could have caused problems –
This obviously shows sarcasm as a problem like this could cause people
go crazy and cause chaos
Language and Diction
• Words and phrases help to convey the excitement of the races:
• Words that convey movement
• Some fifty vehicles roaring up in their wake – This conveys the
speed of the following cars commotion
• Speeds of up to 40 kph – This conveys the speed of donkeys
and helps show the anxiety by portraying the suspense
• Words that suggest sound
• Horns tooting, bells ringing, and the special rattles – This conveys
the atmosphere, the chaos, the noise…
• Cheered and shouted – This shows the enthusiasm and excitment
amongst the natives…
• Words that create visual images
• The only action was a villager on a wobbly bicycle – This shows
the emptiness and ruralness of the area, especially before a race…
• Swallowed by the crowd – This also conveys the chaos especially
when the negative connotation is used
• Noise, tooting, ringing, rattles
• These words appeal to our senses through the means of sound. It
represents the excitement taking place and the anxiety
• Rush, traffic
• Theses words represent the anticipation especially since it shows how
big the turn up was and how people are fighting to get ahead and see
• This words kind of sums up the whole atmosphere of the passage
especially since it is supported with so much thrill
• These words take the race past the usual ‘fun’ especially since the
audience realizes that it was a means of livelihood and not just a pastime
A Few Questions…
1. Define a Buzkashi
2. What are some of the unusual sports mentioned in the
3. What race did Emma Levine witness in this text?
4. Where did this race take place?
5. How did she watch the race?
6. What was her job to do when the race begun?
7. What animal was mentioned in the text which took part
in the race?
8. What were the names of the drivers who accompanied
9. What conflict begun as the race ended?