Series 1 - Episode 2

Episode 2

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Paul’s journey takes him to the Punjab, a predominantly Sikh region dubbed the ‘breadbasket’ of India. The Punjab enjoys the highest per-capita income in the country, but all this prosperity cannot hide the fact that the towns are somewhat drab. “It reminds me a little of Croydon,” says Paul, before being accosted by a group of dancing men dressed as monkeys. It transpires that this energetic display is typical of the Punjab attitude to life, a philosophy Paul’s translator Neha sums up as “living life king-size”.

Paul learns a little more about the Punjab approach to things when he meets the police force of the town of Bathinda. Watching the men parade before Senior Superintendent Singh, Paul learns that the force has let itself go in recent times. “We realised that fitness levels had really dropped,” says Supt Singh. The powers that be hit upon an unorthodox solution when they ordered officers to take up Bhangra dancing. “Bhangra really takes it out of you,” the superintendent remarks.

The Bathinda police are now due to stage a Bhangra competition – and Paul is invited to join the superintendent’s team. The officer’s advice to Paul is simple. “Dance with gay abandon!” he says. The dance-off proves to be a closely fought and furiously energetic affair – although Paul’s team misses out on the first prize of a fridge.

Paul then makes a brief return to Delhi to witness one of his favourite sports – cricket. He meets up with a partially sighted man named George who takes him to a cricket match where all the players are almost completely blind. The game is possible thanks to an audible ball containing ball-bearings. Paul dons a blindfold, picks up a bat and takes to the crease to join the fun, only to be bowled out 24 times in a row. “This is the one form of the game where bad light can’t stop play!” he says.

Retiring with what pride he has left, Paul heads to Jaipur in Rajasthan, a city famed for its forts and palaces. But Paul’s guide, a local radio DJ, is keen for him to see one of the city’s other great achievements – the ‘Jaipur foot’. This is a handmade prosthetic limb made out of wood and plaster of Paris for the incredibly economical price of £20. The free clinic where the limbs are made on the spot helps around 20,000 people a year – including one young boy who gains a new leg while Paul watches on.

Further south, in the Gujarati town of Ahmedabad, Paul catches up with his previous guide, Ruchira, and is taken to meet a group of eunuchs. A distinctly uncomfortable Paul is ushered into the presence of the fearsome Sonia, who leads her entourage onto the streets to beg and bully money out of local businesses. The eunuchs are promptly evicted from one shopping mall and turn their wrath on the security guards by cursing them.

Paul follows Sonia as she transfers her “bizarre protection racket” to a string of smaller stores, where she threatens shopkeepers with dire consequences if they do not pay out. “Watch out, or else I’ll take my skirt off and run round the shop naked,” she says. A tense standoff is defused when staff finally agree to pay up, but Paul’s growing dislike of Sonia and her gang is tempered by Ruchira’s words. “They seem very aggressive but they’re actually quite sad people,” she reminds him. “They’re excluded from society... and they say society owes them something.”

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  • Series 1 - Episode 3

    Paul lets his hair down in the self-proclaimed 'rock city' of India and samples the laidback countryside of Kerala in south India.

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  • Series 1 - Episode 1

    Paul Merton travels through India. Beginning in Delhi, Paul enjoys a course in etiquette before taking a ride on a stationary plane and finding out about the city's street monkeys.

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