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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 28: 22 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysJust before we leave the Taj Hotel I take a last walk by the sea. I'm approached by a man who says he'd seen me dancing at the Durga Puja festival yesterday. Had I enjoyed it? Having ascertained that I had, he falls into step alongside and proceeds to try and interest me in other aspects of Indian life.

'You want woman?'

We walk on for a bit.

'I can show you fifty thousand women.'

This is a bit of a leap. 'Fifty thousand?'

'More, more,' he adds hastily, misinterpreting my surprise. He is referring to the red light area of Bombay, known as The Cages, which someone had wanted to take me to on the first night off the dhow. I wasn't really interested then or now. He goes on to offer 'Good boys', 'temple carvings' and 'a joint' before giving up.

I feel like a paragon of virtue, but really I'm just trying to take in, on my own, some last impressions of the atmosphere of Bombay - like most of India, enticing, elusive, imprecise, uncertain and seductive. But a foreigner, strolling on his own in Bombay, will not be alone for long.

Now we're on our way to the station passing, outside the 'Ear, Nose, Throat, Deafness and Vertigo Clinic', a huge Bruce Springsteen hoarding, and a big rather ugly statue of Mahatma Gandhi, much less affecting than the modest one in Tavistock Square in London. This one appears to be made of shiny brown plastic and makes him look like a Martian.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 28
  • Date: 22 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Bombay
  • Book page no: 97

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