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Himalaya

Day 24: Rawalpindi

Michael Palin - HimalayaRound the back of Flashman's, if you know who to ask, you'll find two well-scuffed shutters, bordered with a patina of black grease from thousands of hands. A sign, in Urdu, announces that opening time is three o'clock. A line, looking suspiciously Muslim, has already formed. About 3.15 the shutters are opened and I soon find myself peering through a barred window into a gloomy little room full of storage boxes and men drinking tea.

Before I buy I have to fill in a permit, which requires me, among other things, to give my father's name and my religion.

'Agnostic?' I suggest, trying to be completely honest.

The man at the counter looks blankly back.

'Agnostic with doubts,' I write down, and hand back the form. This entitles me to six units of alcohol a month, a unit being one bottle of spirits or 20 bottles of beer. I buy a bottle of Vat No.1 Rawalpindi whisky at a cost of 350 rupees (about £3.50), which the attendant wraps in brown paper and hands through the bars to me.

'Drink only in room,' he cautions. 'Not in public.'

I nod, grateful for the advice. He must have got the measure of me, for as I turn away he shouts hopefully.

'I do gin!'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 24: Rawalpindi
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Rawalpindi
  • Book page no: 51

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