When I was gassing up the car in Huntington Beach last week, another car pulled in and parked, and the driver got out and approached me.
He was in his sixties, South Asian, and wearing one of those embroidered tunic-like garments that comes down to the knees. He was either a foreigner or someone who was practicing a more traditional Indian life here in California.
He greeted me with “Hello. Do you know, could you tell me, where is New Britain?”
For a moment I froze. What the hell? Was he somehow trying to find some new Raj of Anglo-Indians, an enclave of 1908 here in suburbia? Or was he asking me a trick geographical question about a remote island? Seconds passed.
He looked at me quizzically and smiled. “It is a street.”
Oh! I had no idea where New Britain street was in HB. I pointed him to the clerk.
Now I have this image in my head of a little Simla hidden somewhere between the beach and the freeweay.