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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 28: 22 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysHaving put the cost of predicting my future down on my hotel bill, I venture out for a last look at Bombay before I take the Madras train this afternoon. I find myself in one of the poorest parts of the city. For several hundred yards along a high wall are clusters of dwellings assembled from bits of old cardboard, corrugated iron, sacks and assorted pieces of wood and metal. It looks like a long rubbish tip but it is, in fact, the most basic form of terraced housing. Yet, as I walk along past these rickety tenuous little coverings, I see very little sourness and despondency. There is dignity in the faces of mothers washing in the water from the standpipe. Eyes are not averted in embarrassment or shame, the children are responsive, lively and curious. Once again I'm confused and surprised by the way India works. Poverty seems not to be judged as failure, as it is in the West. Here it is a fact of life. There are too many people and too few jobs. Those who have little or nothing are not cleared off the streets or shoved out of sight. To make something out of almost nothing, as in the case of these families huddled against the high wall, is an achievement, and that shows in their faces. But as soon as we start to film, and I cease to be a solitary wandering foreigner, the relationship changes and children who have hung on my arm and laughed when I've pulled silly faces become suddenly inquisitive. Some bigger children join the group. One feels in my pocket. By now the word has gone out that I have money, and money changes the group from hanging on to me in good humour to clinging menacingly, and with frightening speed inquisitiveness turns to anger.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 28
  • Date: 22 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Bombay
  • Book page no: 96

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