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Phileas Fogg

 It takes a man of great courage, spirit and eccentricity to wager half his fortune on a ludicrous bet that he can traverse the entire world in less than three months. And Phileas Fogg is the man! And the story of his incredible journey is documented in ‘Around The World In 80 Days’, a classic travelogue by Jules Verne.  Please don’t say “Oooh! I know all about it! I’ve seen the movie!”…
Read the book.
/* You are forgiven even if the movie in question is the 1956 version and not the 2004 one where Jackie Chan, curiously, plays Fogg’s devoted servant, Passepartout, who is supposed to be French, for God’s sake!
The original version gives you a good idea of the Western perception of the East, back in the old days. The filmmakers were apparently under the impression that a royal funeral in India warrants the presence of elephants, which would be probably be a whole lot truer if it were held in Assam because those pachyderms barge in almost anywhere! But they got the part about cows right. Our society gives them an extraordinary amount of license. But in any case, it’s more accurate. Okay, I admit, Shirley MacLaine is not very convincing as an Indian princess but atleast more so than Jackie Chan passing off as a Frenchman! */
Fogg, in spite of his riches, leads a modest life. But his mannerisms are every bit the snobby aristocrat. It is well within his right to fire his valet for bringing the shaving water one degree colder than asked for. Enter Passepartout as the replacement. The duo then embarks on this ambitious voyage carrying the remainder of Fogg’s fortune as travel expenses. At the station, Passepartout suddenly remembers that he left the gas on, back home. But Fogg, instead of losing his cool, merely brushes it aside saying that they should anticipate a huge bill when they return. When he is accosted by a needy woman for money, he gallantly places a thick wad of 5000 pounds in her hand. These two actions consolidate his position as a man of magnanimity and generosity, in Passepartout’s mind.
But all of London, sadly, doesn’t share the same view. Fogg’s departure could not have been more ill-timed, thick in the midst of a bank robbery! The staggering amount of cash involved, the unbelievable gamble and his unfortunate physical resemblance to the bank robber, set tongues wagging. And it doesn’t take long for Scotland Yard to believe that it’s put two and two together and send Detective Fix on his tail.
Inspite of Fix trying to thwart his plans at every step, Fogg remains more or less on schedule. And because he arrives in India early, he devotes some time to being a knight in shining armour to a distressed Indian princess, Aouda, who was forced into Sati. Fogg, like any civilized being, finds the practice abhorrent and hatches a daring plan with Passepartout to save her and make a cross-country getaway. But this servant-master equation is tested in Hong Kong, where they are separated, courtesy Fix. Perhaps Fogg trusted Passepartout to take care of himself and rejoin him later or maybe he didn’t give a damn about him. Completing the journey was of utmost importance. But he is overjoyed to be reunited with him in Japan, so their relationship isn’t devoid of camaraderie.
America holds quite a few surprises in store. The most powerful economy in the world can owe some of its contribution to Fogg as it is the colour of his money and generous bribes which help him stay on track in this country. And then there’s always the train heist and fisticuffs with Red Indians and cowboys, just like a good old Western. Possibly the most physically taxing leg of his journey, what with all the punches he’s required to throw around!
But the story’s yet to finish! Foxy Fix eagerly awaits his return to England where he is pronounced under arrest and locked up in the slammer for an entire day. By this time, Fogg is at the end of his tether and loses all hopes of winning the bet. All his determination and struggles had come to naught. When Fix comes to apologize to him, saying it’s a case of mistaken identity, Fogg gives vent to his feelings in a gentlemanly fashion, by punching him in the face.
Sitting in the drawing room of his home, a broken and bankrupt man, Fogg confesses his love for Aouda but tells her he is incapable of providing her with material comforts. But Aouda says she would have him regardless, for she loved him for his character and not for his wealth. Fogg sends Passepartout to find a priest to bless them but Passepartout, bless him, comes back saying that they had not taken something into account, the blessed International Date Line, which means that there was still some blessed time left! Fortune, truly, favours the brave!
So Fogg wins his bet and marries Aouda and they along with Passepartout, live happily ever after with no worries…….except for that gas bill, maybe.

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Sayonee Ghosh Roy
I humbly profess to be spoilt, pampered brat with old-school upbringing. You could let me loose in a book-store and I'd never come out, except if you lure me out with coffee and Italian food.


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