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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 29: 23 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysMr Nitti is still with us and, as he couldn't find any room for himself elsewhere, is installed in our compartment. He's now been joined by his counterpart from Southern Railways, a Tamil. He has nowhere to sit either so we all move up. The irony is that they're here to make sure we're comfortable. They talk to each other in English as Mr Nitti has no Tamil and the Tamil no Hindi. The first thing they do is cancel my lunch order. Apparently I should not have given in to the small bearded man, however much he knocked on my door. He is not a good man and his lunch will not be good. They propose instead a Southern Railways Special, and are justifiably proud of what arrives. It's a thali, which is a sort of south Indian vegetarian meze, with all sorts of different fruits in pickles and curries and dhals and raitas, fresh and sharp.

After lunch we descend slowly from the plain to the hot coastal strip. We're now in the province of Tamil Nadu. The complexions are darker, the earth a deeper red, and the settlements less drab. Much smiling, from slim graceful faces, and a characteristic rolling wobble of the head as they speak. I talk to a much travelled lady from Madras, a paediatrician in her mid forties, brought up on English literature. She says that southern Indians feel infinitely superior to the northerners. It starts to rain. Gentle showers. More like sweat than real rain, and soon past. I buy a bag of nuts at one stop, to find that the paper cornet they're served in is made from a page of Alice in Wonderland.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 29
  • Date: 23 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Guntakal
  • Book page no: 103

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