amazing scenes

*the great stumble forward: INDIA

 KARNATAKA GOA PANJIM MAHESHWAR GUJARAT VARANASI KOLKATA MUMBAI

  

'You don’t have a pa-a-a-assport, honey?’ Doris gasped with incredulity and fished about in her handbag. This was the first I’d heard of a passport. You get it stamped every time you ‘do’ an Azamara Activity. ‘If you gedda pa-a-ashport, honey, you gedda pri-i-i-ize,’ she said, running her finger down my chest. I felt an urgent Azamara Activity coming on. Ah, yes, there it was. Run A Mile.

Dog was never really in Mumbai. He spent too long in Colaba instead, stumbling eventually on the Hotel Apollo, a business hotel slap-bang in the middle of the circus. Things got a lot easier after that. Dog never had to go far to find Mumbai. Mumbai found him.

High above the ghats Sreemant Maharajkumar Shivajirao Yashwantrao Richard Holkar Prince of Indore, absently sipped at a blue teacup of first flush Darjeeling, brewed for exactly five minutes then poured. He liked the high leaf, preferred the mellow, delicate taste – after all, he was a mellow, delicate man...

The Maharana of Mathwad was a likeable rogue; entertaining, if a little overwhelming; a sprightly chap in his late sixties with fine grey hair and piercing eyes. Unfortunately, the Rana looked a great deal more intelligent than he was...

She was old and she was ugly, she was rusty, squat and flat. M.S. Ocean Odyssey had lived a hundred lives, the first of them a very long time ago. Now she wallowed sadly in the deserted docks of Goa – a re-painted strumpet out for one last deep-sea shag. Mr. Dogster charged eagerly up the gangway. There, standing in a line, were twenty sullen Ukrainian housekeepers. One of them squeezed out a tiny smile – the rest stared at him as if he’d shat in their hand...

Lazy Good Friday in Goa; too hot to move, too hot to think – too hot to dream. Television spewed the death of a young British girl on Anjuna Beach, just a few miles up the road. Fourteen, raped and left for dead, drowned by the incoming tide; every day a new revelation – corruption, incompetence, malpractice, murder – an interlocking web of greed that seemed to extend into infinity...

‘Want to come? Meet my family?’ India is like this – random moments of decision. You have a choice. Yes or no. I was tired of saying ‘no’ – that’s all I ever say in India. Today was a ‘why not?’ day, an ‘O.K.’ day, a ‘let’s go!’ day. I tried it. Yup, that felt good. It wasn’t far. We ducked down a side street, turned up a tiny alley and there was a low, wooden door. Vijay banged on it and shouted up to his wife. ‘Come down, it’s me! Open up! We’ve got a visitor!’…

I don’t know why there are naked Armenian men wrestling on the banks of the Hoogli, but there are. Well, not quite naked. They are all wearing a tiny scarf wrapped around their loins and, without meaning to labour the point, seem to have had their todgers cut off. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth of it. Perhaps dawn wrestling does that to your vitals. It certainly would to mine.

To all accounts and purposes, the trip was a beautiful no-brainer: all the Caledonians had to do was get on the plane at Heathrow, get off in Kolkata; be met and fussed over, let themselves be transferred to the ship and check-in. All they then had to do was unpack, sit on the upper deck drinking gin and tonic, cruise along the Ganges and fourteen stress-free days later pack up, disembark in Varanasi and fly home. It’s a shame it didn’t quite turn out that way.

She hovered there in the doorway of the 4WD; half in, half out – balancing on her bottom just this side of catastrophe. The new Madam let out an elegant squawk and landed on the banks of the Brahmaputra with a thud, lost amidst a cluster of brown arms. Her hat and bag were passed to her and with an assistant on each elbow she was escorted slowly to the edge of the river. Miss Jill’s voyage of discovery had begun…

  

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