Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Inspector Ghote Goes To London

Quite by chance, I was reading H.R.F. Keating's 'Inspector Ghote Hunts The Peacock' last week (when I saw the film 'English Vinglish').  In this book (published in 1968), Keating looks deep into the heart and mind of Inspector Ghote during Ghote's first visit to London.  And this is what he discovers:

"...Cautiously he (Inspector Ghote) made his way down to the Tube platform.  The train, when he got into it, was immensely crowded, but the mass of people seemed infinitely more orderly than those of the similar morning rush in Bombay.  Even in the very closest proximity they contrived to ignore each other with magnificent calm.  He felt proud of them.
   It was at about this time that he became fully aware of his first live mini-skirt.  In the preoccupation of making sure he got on the right train going in the right direction he had had eyes for nothing but illuminated notices.  Then he had been too jammed tight to see anything.  But now as the train cleared a little, he found himself looking straight down the long carriage at two girls with skirts showing four long plump stretches of nylon-covered leg above four soft rounded knees.
   For perhaps two minutes he regarded the phenomenon earnestly.  Then he found that his mind was made up.  He did not approve.
   But already the station names were getting dangerously near to the ones immediately before the Bank, where his briefing had told him to alight.  He concentrated his fullest attention on being absolutely ready to jump from the train the moment it reached his destination.
   He made it with colours flying.
   He negotiated the tricky circular exit from the station without a hitch.  Out in the street, he paused long enough to be absolutely sure he had got his bearings and then set off following the directions in his briefing, happily confident that he was not putting a single foot wrong.
   He found each turning exactly where he expected it to appear.  He noted with a comforting feeling that the walk from the Tube to Wood Street was taking not a moment longer than he had thought likely.  He spotted a tall, strikingly modern building that he guessed would be the newly built police station which the briefing had described well before he got to it.  And when he arrived at the broad flight of entrance steps, sure enough they proved to be those of the building itself.
   The only trouble was that he had arrived one hour and twenty seven minutes too early.

Ghote walked hastily round the corner so that no one coming out of the building should spot him as a conference delegate who had made the mistake of turning up so ridiculously long before necessary.  And there he stood and considered.
   For a minute or two he pored over the pages of his newspaper-covered guide.  And, yes, he should be able to do it.  From where he was standing it could not be more than fifteen minutes' walk to the Tower of London...

...The huge black and grey walls rose up massively in front of him.  Beyond them the pinnacled inner towers stood out  against the softly grey sky.  Which one of them was the Bloody Tower, he wondered.  Never mind.  When he made his proper visit he would find out for certain and savour its rich associations to the utmost.
   For a brief moment he caught a glimpse on a high inner gallery of a Beefeater, a sudden richly coloured figure lighting up the sombreness all around.  And, he thought, in due time he would see such figures by the dozen.  And the ancient ravens that haunted the place.  And the very axe under which Queens had bowed their necks.  And the glowing splendour of the Crown Jewels, symbols of the proud and ancient monarchy of this proud and ancient land.
   He gazed and gazed.
   Yet, oddly enough, at the very moment when he got up to go back to Wood Street police-station, leaving himself a decently reasonable time for the return walk, he found suddenly that he was overwhelmed almost to drowning point, it seemed, by a totally unexpected and desperately acute attack of home-sickness.
   It was stupid, but abruptly he wanted to be back in India.  He wanted the brightness, the noise, the easy-goingness.  He wanted, he found to his simple astonishment, to be standing looking at peacocks.
   Peacocks.  Nothing else.  He wanted to see the gaudy plumage, the bright, light-reflecting jewel colours of the proud birds.
   He shook his head angrily.
   What nonsense was this?"

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