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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 31: 25 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysLater in the afternoon. In a rickshaw, 94 degrees and humid. I've been looking at the grand imperial statues which have not been removed from sight in Madras as quickly as elsewhere. There is an equestrian statue of Munro, a governor in 1820, with stirrups missing. They say that the sculptor took his life as a result of this omission . . . Edward VII (1903) stands in a well-tended garden whilst George V is slap in the middle of the flower-market and has bills stuck on him and families living round his plinth. Both the royal statues were given to the city of Madras not by the British but by local Indians. Back at the hotel, hot and tired again, we're revived by good news. The Susak will take two of us - Nigel Meakin, the cameraman, and myself. It looks as if I shall have to take a crash course in sound recording. Nigel says it's not difficult. Ron says it's very difficult.

So with the way ahead looking clearer my last meal in India is something of a celebration. I eat in the open air beneath a full moon and beside an enormous raintree, in the gardens of the hotel. The food is excellent. A buffet full of mixtures of yoghurt, carrot, coconut and aubergine, tomato, chillies, coriander, spinach, onion and peanut. No meat but plenty of fish. There is a fierce crab curry which is irresistible.

All this is accompanied by classical dancing of extraordinary precision, complexity and beauty. Folk dancing usually has me reaching for my room key, but this display is quite superb. The girl dancer speaks good English. She is fifteen, and has been learning classical dance full time since the age of six. She reckons it will be another five years before she's any good.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 31
  • Date: 25 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Madras
  • Book page no: 108

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