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By Bunty Avieson

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Mal makes toast and fresh tea, using leaves picked just up the valley, and adding two cardamom pods. He prepares it in our ‘kitchenette’ – that’s the upended box bearing our kettle, toaster and his fancy Italian coffee machine, brought with us to Bir from Delhi. We sterilise Kathryn’s dummies by holding the button down on the electric kettle. Mal serves me breakfast in bed with the previous day’s Indian Express, a regional newspaper. The paper is always entertaining. Last year it featured a photo of comedienne Libbi Gorr giving the middle-finger salute on the catwalk at Australian Fashion Week.

I’ve noticed that on a plane, having a baby makes me less than popular. In an emergency, I’m beyond the status of leper. I have plenty of time to calmly collect some nappies and baby food, coo with Kathryn (who, having vomited up the contents of her stomach, now is blissfully unfussed), and then chase after the fleeing mob. Inside Kolkata terminal we are kept in a large hot room. As the sun rises higher in the sky, everything starts to smell – the room, the tarmac – but most of all Kathryn and me.

I maintain this nonchalant attitude until a western doctor friend studying in Dharamsala comes for a visit one pleasant Tuesday afternoon. She tells us, over tea and biscuits in our office, that the war will start on Thursday. The way she says it, with such certainty, makes it sound like India and Pakistan have made a booking. Some friends in Dharamsala told her, she says. They have friends in the Pakistani military. It seems surreal, but she is adamant. First thing Thursday morning a cell from the Pakistan army will crawl over the border, deliberately provoking the Indian military into unleashing its nuclear bomb on Pakistan, who will send one straight back into India.

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