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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 25: 19 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysDespite its name no one enters India through it any longer, apart from royalty I suppose, so it's a very curious feeling to scramble off here, with my bags, clothes crumpled from seven days in a dhow. There are snake charmers and drug pushers and men with monkeys and women with babies and outstretched hands. Indian life is no respecter of great monuments, especially one so prominently associated with alien domination, nor does Indian life have to be sought out in back streets and certain quarters of town. It begins, like the heady warm smell of spice and manure, as soon as you set foot on the land.

A hundred yards further on I am confronted by a completely different world again - a world of turbaned doormen, Mercedes limousines, air-conditioning and American Express. The world of the Taj Mahal Hotel. I'd been dreaming about its soft beds and clean sheets for days but now I'm here, grubby and unshaven in the lobby, I find it sour and rather objectionable. For a week I've been in a world where rank, class and social distinction don't exist. Now I see it all around me. Of course I'm happy to be comfortable and to be looked after and to enjoy the style and splendour of the hotel but I hope I never forget the values of simplicity, honesty and unselfishness which I associate with the Al Shama.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 25
  • Date: 19 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Bombay
  • Book page no: 88

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