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The smell of mothballs.

There is a bar, a bungalow, an old pink tent. There is a cat with a diseased face, bloated to unproportioned places, a dog so skinny you can see more than his ribs, a big lawn with plastic furniture and pink checkered tablecloths. There is Jaspreet, the manager, snazzy in his matching turban and tie. There is an upstairs balcony and a downstairs terrace. There is a photograph of Sonia and Rajeev eating ice cream at India Gate. There is the snooker table that started it all.

In the bathrooms, there is the smell of mothballs.

I lived in India for 1,277 days. I never saw the Taj Mahal. I went to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club a few hundred nights.

It is a prime piece of real estate in the center of the city, though no one can ever find it. It cozies up to the Supreme Court where men mill about in wigs and robes. You tell the driver, Bagwandas! And he drives and wants to stop. Sieda, sieda! He thinks your crazy. Right, here. Turn right! And then you’re there.

There’s the strangest painting of a woman on the wall going up to the first floor. I wonder who she was. The bar has a plaque that reads “Aristocratic bar”. There’s ping pong out back.

Once upon a time my friend told me of a place that had a snooker table. I don’t know what snooker is, I whined. I want to go, I pleaded. He rolled his eyes and gnashed his teeth and finally said, “Fine, I’ll take you.”  We went on a Thursday evening.

Two girls wound up a few hours later, wearing tiaras. It was then that we knew: Tiara Thursdays. It was a God-ordained holiday.

We went every Thursday. We sat on balconies in misty night air. We talked about the drama of the world and it’s existence. Or, they talked. I said yes!, really!? no?, exactly!, a lot. We came and came and came.

It went from six of us. To twelve. To a hundred. I didn’t know everyone there anymore. I wanted it to be my Cheers. Hey, Cliff! No one shouted that when I walked in. We had created a monster.

But it was still a lawn and a bungalow and a lot of mothballs. I was still in love.

Once, there was a wedding. The bride rode in on a elephant. The groom was decked in a necklace of ten-rupee notes. Once there was a fight. Okay, more than one. There were elections to fight, blustering ministers to interview, stories to angle for and contacts to make. We fell in love there. We fell out of love there. We regrouped. We ran away. We hung out. It wasn’t much more than a rundown bungalow anyway.

It’s a spoiled bunch; a rotten, egotistical, wonderful bunch. They work too hard. They drink too much. They smoke Indonesian cigarettes. Once a week they come to hang around a lawn. Eye each other up. Gossip about each other. Relay stories. Size things up. Mock each other. On a lovely lawn. In a rundown bungalow. Sprinkled with swollen cats and shriveled dogs and, always, the smell of mothballs.


  1. Tron says:

    The FCC may have a ping pong table out back, but Jess and I have a ping pong table IN OUR DINING ROOM. (It’s one of the few pieces of furniture we have, actually.) When are you coming to visit?

  2. Line says:

    Very eloquent. Will miss you miss, next time I get to go. /L

  3. Melissa says:

    Tron, you always have to one up everything, don’t you? As soon as my foot heals, I will come dominate Ping Pong in Pittsburgh, which would make a good sitcom title.