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Around the World in 80 Days Revisited

Mandvi, Kutch 20 October 2008

Magic moments 
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Magic moments. Re-living the journey of twenty years ago with Captain Hassan Suleyman, Mahomet, Asimuth, the Captainís grandson, Anif, Captain Suleymanís son-in-law and Anwar, the ex-cabin boy.
Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days RevisitedI hear his voice before I see him and I know I've got the right man. The door is pulled open and there he is. The man who welcomed me on Al Shama at Dubai now welcomes me, with open arms, to his house in Mandvi. He's put on weight, his face is fuller and his beard well-trimmed and distinguished. As he clasps me in a powerful embrace I sense that this man, a little jumpy on the dhow journey, has matured into someone of substance, a Godfather of the dhow world.

He ushers me into a long thin courtyard, and suddenly from the darkened interior of the house come other faces I recognise. Anwar, the cabin boy with the shock of black curls, is now thirty-six, married to Suleyman' daughter and a captain of a ship in his own right. Ibrahim the Chief Engineer grasps my hand as does Kishore the 2nd Engineer and, long before I'd intended to, I bring out my portable DVD player and put on the episode in which we all starred and everyone squeezes round for a look.

Captain Suleyman keeps up a running commentary as each member of the crew appears on the film. Kasim, the old man who listened to Bruce Springsteen and walked on my back, is dead, so is the cook and Deyji Ramji, the studious-looking navigator. Mahomet, Anwar's father, who had talked on film about his preference for working on dhows for no money, rather than supertankers for a lot of money, is not so well now, the Captain says. A couple of minutes later the front door opens behind us and there he is, his skin drawn tight across his face, his figure brittle and thin, but his face wide in a smile.

It's all happened so fast, but I can think of no better way for it to have happened. Mandvi may be over four thousand miles from London, but here beside the dhows of the future with my friends of the past it is a home from home. Twenty years ago I said it was 'almost impossible to accept that I shall never see them again'. Today, here in Mandvi, we celebrate the art of the possible.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days Revisited
  • Chapter: Mandvi, Kutch 20 October 2008
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Mandvi
  • Book page no: 239

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