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Himalaya

Day 25: Rawalpindi to Lahore

Michael Palin - HimalayaAnother seems pleased that we represent the BBC. 'Everyone in Pakistan believe BBC, but not CNN,' he assures me, readjusting his New York Yankees baseball cap.

It's heating up as promised 44C (111F) by the time we reach Rawalpindi Station, a huge conflation of Scottish baronial turrets and cupolas with a bland modern extension tacked on. Porters cluster around us and a thin-faced ascetic old man with a Gandalf-like white beard grabs one of my cases, hoists the other onto his head and, a little disappointed that I choose to carry my own shoulder bag, marches off through the crowds.

Our driver nods approvingly. This old man is a great character, he says. He was carrying bags for British officers before independence. That was 55 years ago.

There are three classes on the train, two with air-con and one without. We're in air-con, 2nd class and are made comfortable by an army of solicitous attendants marshalled by a man in a white suit, green peaked hat and a crimson arm band, grandly embroidered with the words Conductor Guard. A rich cast of characters, all with titles clearly inscribed on jackets or lapels, come through offering refreshment of various kinds. My favourite is the Iceman, a stocky, embattled figure in a frayed white jacket, whose bulbous eyes and droopy moustache remind me of a small-time crook in a French gangster movie. He hauls a huge bucket in which is a block of ice with bottles squeezed around it. There is a tired, emaciated Sweet Seller and various perkier, smartly turned-out young men described on their lapel badges as either Buttlers (sic) or Waiters. Waiter No. 14 brings chai, sweet milky tea, and Buttler No. 7 collects the money.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 25: Rawalpindi to Lahore
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Rawalpindi
  • Book page no: 52

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