Its become almost a weekly thing. The guys “retiring” to the pool room with their first glasses of neat Johnny Walker on ice (red only because we are not posh). The beautiful green velvet glows warmly in the gloom. The colourful balls await in an obedient triangle, sneered at by the white ball, quivering to charge from its special spot across the green. We break with a satisfying clap of ivory.
I am terrible at this game. I can barely differentiate between pool, snooker and billiards. Mostly because I am new to this and don’t get a chance to practice outside these gatherings. The rest of the guys are masters of billiard geometry. Having started from the early days when they could first sneak into the adult part of SSC, Otters, or “room with the huge table” in the automobile association building (is there one?).
Thankfully the main interest is in putting a coloured ball into a pocket. Not gloating over the score. My horrid playing (lost count of how many time I sank the white ball or scored for the opposition) is tolerated. I’d like to think my playing is laboriously improving in impercivable increments. Yet it’s too early to tell. The only inkling I have are the rare moments my plays were awarded the great accolade of all: “shot shot” (or “sshooort”).
Thankfully the effects of Johnny Walker on the better players starts levelling the playing field for me towards the end of the second glass. Their delicate taps and supposedly careful measurements bring ever more unpredictable results.
The company is ethnically mixed yet socially homogeneous. The conversation (which automatically pauses when a player readies for a shot) is about mutual acquaintances, work, and perhaps the global economic scene. Politics is rarely touched upon. This crowd is wise enough to realise the futility of endlessly meditating on palace intrigue. Nothing we say can affect the behaviour of the political aristocracy. Irrespective of who wears the crown next month, there’ll always be some goon demanding his cut blocking the way. Things can always get worse but when it does it’s not as bad as it could be. In the mean time, let us be thankful for a sip of Johnny and a tap of cue on ivory.
Eventually we a summoned by the wives who have spread out a simple yet delicious feast. The curries and conversation around the table lift the weight of the week off the shoulders. I have not checked the clock all evening yet soon is time to go. After the good byes (those awfully awkward cheek to cheek things), the wives herd the tipsy men into the passenger seats. The booze prevents the traditional hour of road side pre departure yak yak Sri Lankans are notorious for.
Slumped sleepily in my seat, I enjoy Mrs C’s report on the evening’s girl talk. This evenings topic’s: mother in laws. At least two of the guys are to remain oblivious to the details.