What’s Up With All the Mothballs in India?

I am actually surprised it has taken me this long to write about this topic.  I really did mean to bring it up sooner because aside from the tremendous amount of Tom Selleck/Magnum P.I. mustaches that I encountered and adored from the first moment I stepped foot in India back in March, there is only one other thing that I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday.

You know how a smell can take you back in time to virtually any place in the world?  Maybe the sweet smell of cinnamon takes you instantly back in time to when you were 24 years old and at the spice bazaar in Istanbul?  Or the smell of Jaegermeister instantly reminds you of that St. Patrick’s Day gone bad back during uni years?  (yeah, that was me!)  Well, that is exactly what happened to me when I walked into my hotel room in Bangalore when I was here for my job interview back in March.  Honestly, it was like I was 12 years old again, in Hamilton, Georgia for the summer at Gramma and Grampa Carson’s house.  Gramma and Grampa’s house always smelled the same because they LOVED mothballs.  But not as much as Indians do.

Seriously, there are mothballs everywhere here in India!!!  The first thing I did when the bellboy shut the door to my hotel room was go on a recon mission to search and destroy all mothballs in my room.  The guys at the hotel were pretty crafty too, they were spread around quite nicely.  A couple in the bathroom, a couple inside of the closet and a couple under the closet.  The two under the closet I suspect were escapees from the closet, haha.  But I found them and they were outta there.  I threw them all inside the rubbish bin, tied the plastic bag tight and — upon the brilliant suggestion of my sister — aired out the closet so that I could actually use it for my clothes the next day.

Our friend the mothball is always around for happy hour and at almost every restaurant I have been to… and it is DEFINITELY always at every club and bar 🙂

At that time I thought it was a “hotel thing” and never imagined the deep rooted love and respect that the country has for the many uses of the mothball.  They can be found virtually everywhere here — restaurants, pubs, bars, at the mall…yep, everywhere!  Gramma and Grampa pretty much only used them to protect the wool winter coats and fabric or linens that were stored in hope chests.  But here they are used all around town, mostly in bathrooms from what I see.  And the most common place I find them is inside the bowls of bathroom sinks.  Sometimes I am really so surprised to smell them.  For example, in a nice hotel bathroom like at the swish Leela Palace.  Who’da thought a 5 start hotel would chuck mothballs into the bathroom?  Just seems wrong.

According to Wikipedia (http://moourl.com/fj71p) they are used to repel bugs but if that is true I don’t know why they are used in the sinks?  I really don’t get it but they are there.  I suppose, to “freshen” the air because I don’t imagine that there are bug problems in bathroom sinks??  Now come on though…there really must be a less pungent air freshener than our friend the mothball.  Especially here in India where there is such a wonderful assortment of spices and incense, right?  But no…the mothball is king.

I have smelled them in the bathrooms at private homes too, not tucked away in the closets with coats and linens.  We like them where I work too.  They are placed inside the kitchen sink, inside the bathroom sink, upstairs on our rooftop cantina inside the sink.  I think I have seen them on the floor once too.

Behind the bar at REWIND with Rohan the owner. It’s the 2nd time I have been here and I love the rock and roll music so much I think I found my new hot spot (plus it’s only 6 blocks away from work so SCORE!)

Help me, Indian mates… why are the mothballs in the sink?

So tonight I am a big lame-o at the gastro-pub REWIND having dinner and a happy hour drink all on my own.  I did have plans but I was sadly stood up by my mate Aussie Peter who was stuck in crazy traffic and it would have taken him an hour to arrive here.  If you haven’t been to REWIND you really should check it out.  It’s a rock & roll bar with a funky and cool mix of movie art and musical decor.  The bar is a bit dark, which I love, and the music is awesome.  Reminds me of being back home in California.  The owner is a really nice guy  and they pour an insanely strong drink at times (eh-hem, you guys know when I am referring to!) and the staff always have a smile.  I ate the Kundapar Chicken (gravy), was great!  Check them out here: http://moourl.com/g0uyp

Last night I had a blast for dinner away from my trusty laptop.  My mate Yon took me to The 13th Floor, it was my first time there and it was fantastic.  This restaurant lounge is located — wait for it — on the 13th floor of a building downtown with an outdoor terrace that overlooks UB City and half of Bangalore.  It’s spectacular.  I want to go during the day sometime to snap a couple pics 🙂  They have these amazing cheese stuffed olives and Thai beef that is to-die for!  I will definitely be going back there again soon.

XOXO from Bangalore

© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011

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Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 32 countries on 4 continents, residing in 7 of them (currently Kuala Lumpur is my home). By day I'm a digital nomad and by night I'm a passionate storyteller. I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!
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3 Comments on “What’s Up With All the Mothballs in India?

  1. As a boy I started playing with those mothballs the first time i saw them… basically just aiming at various spots in the toilet… My mom found out and she told me not to… And your lucky I asked her why.. Cause now im gonna share what she told me.. She said it was to avoid cockroaches for from climbing through the drainage system and into the house…. :-D… So today as a man, I still keep a special place for those mothballs in my flat.

    • You are the first person to come up with a logical answer to the WHY all the mothballs question…thank you SO MUCH!! Smelly little things, aren’t they? 🙂

      • Hi Angela, 

        I'm currently living in Gujarat with my family after moving here from Melbourne. Like you i was somewhat perplexed at the mothballs all over the place, probably a little more so than you as i didn't actually know what they were. i came across them in guest houses, in the sinks and the wardrobes just like you, and then was reminded about them at a friends house when i washed my hands in their sink and saw one there aswell. i asked what the heck these things were and then they explained to me that they were a kind of disinfectant around the drains. I must admit that i've now taken to using them in  my own home (though with some caution as it seems they can be bad for your health if you suffer with certain blood conditions) in the plug holes of my bathroom sinks for the sole purpose of masking the absolutely hideous smell that sometimes comes into the apartment through the drains.  So as much as i'd prefer not to smell them, it's much preferable than the rancid alternative.

        Leah

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