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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 32: 26 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysMidnight. Still loading. Nigel is down in the engine-room with the effusive second engineer Ivan, who has limited English and unlimited supplies of slivowitz. I'm in the hospital, talking to Jacky. Indian shipping agents and their representatives are lolling about the officers' mess. Much Ballantine's is changing hands, plus the odd video and gold timepiece. It's a seedy time of the night and Jacky is telling me about sailors and their needs. A man called P.C. Alexander, an ex-Indian High Commissioner in London, has cleaned up Madras. There's a very Puritan atmosphere here now, and the seamen are not happy.

'All ship's crew very happy with Calcutta. Can bring many girls there. Bombay too - no problem.' Bombay is apparently the only city in India to license prostitutes. The girls are very often procured from local villages, where fathers or uncles are paid maybe 5000 rupees by travelling pimps. This is a lot of money to a poor villager and the girls don't stand much chance. They are brought to the city and installed in a pimp's bungalow. He trains and looks after them for a year. Then they may have outlived their usefulness to him, and he turns them out. Indian girls are naturally very shy and nervous, says Jacky, and Western crews can be disappointed. Good prostitutes can be found, oh yes. The big companies, and here he names a prominent British-owned tobacco producer, will provide girls who will do anything for buyers.
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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: 111

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