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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 29: 23 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysArrive in Madras 45 minutes late. I'm thrust aboard a rickshaw and pedalled off to the Connemara Hotel. A parting glimpse of Madras station. Imposing scale, big pink Gothic tower and a loggia on either side. The neo-Renaissance effect spoilt by an extensive corrugated iron roof. Over a foul-smelling river we go, my straining Tamil and I, past lots of adverts mainly for films and cigarettes, past The Convent School of Commerce and over a succession of speed-breakers in the road - rather a cruel obstacle to throw at my driver, as he's only doing about three miles an hour anyway.

Down Marshall's Road and Monteith Road and into the gates of the Connemara Hotel - a low thirties-style building, which looks more Croydon than Madras. As soon as we pull up, we're waved out of the way by an officious doorman to accommodate a white Mercedes, from which descends a very well-dressed couple indeed. I have arrived in the middle of a wedding party. Rich Indians fill the foyer as I walk through. I catch sight of myself in the mirror. I look like a scarecrow. Unshaven, unkempt, clothes crumpled after a night sleeping in them. A burgeoning cold sore. The manager pushes through the crowd towards me. I'm sure he's going to take me round the back and fumigate me. But no, someone has told him that this tramp is a VIP and I find myself garlanded, given the mark on my forehead by a beautiful woman, and led to my room by the assistant manager himself. I find myself gushing apologies for my appearance.

The bath and the cold beer that follow are two of the most wonderful experiences of the journey so far. I feel, perhaps prematurely, that I have survived India.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 29
  • Date: 23 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Madras
  • Book page no: 104

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