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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 32: 26 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days4.15. Still in port. We are having a problem with immigration. Having been through the usual number of confused junior officials we are now in the senior immigration officer's presence. On the wall is a gaudy, gold-trimmed clock, hung up, but still in its wrapping paper. A metal cupboard is covered in violent stains, as if cans of paint had been hurled at it in some kinetic frenzy. In front of him is a desk diary for 1985. He sits examining our papers critically, like a headmaster with a bad report. His hair is thick and grey, but on closer inspection is growing out of one side of his head only and spread artfully across the rest, Bobby Charlton-style. He sniffs. Obsequious attendants lurk in the background. After he's finished a brief phone call one of them steps forward, uncoils the telephone wire and replaces the receiver for him. We are losing time, and I notice on a blackboard behind us that our only alternative out of Madras, the Kamnik, has been postponed five days. As if sensing our restlessness, the officer becomes even more leisurely. He asks me the purpose of my journey. 'Jolly,' he says, 'Jolly first class.' He smiles across at me, pleased with his grasp of the colloquial idiom, then returns to my papers: 'But everything must be pukka you see'.

A separate letter, explaining yet again the intention to substitute two of us for two of the Susak's crew, has to be drawn up and brought to him. By this time it's five o'clock. Sailing time. The officer reads the letter very slowly. Beside him another acolyte stands, with a huge stamp in his hand, for at least ten minutes, after which, at a nod from the officer he brings the stamp smartly down onto the paper, and retires into the shadows, never to be seen again.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 32
  • Date: 26 October
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Madras
  • Book page no: 110

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