The pestilential passenger and the Philippines
There is a category of airline passenger that would definitely fall into the category pestilential. Nay. PESTILENTIAL.
I was just about getting stretched out on my extendable business class seat when the scrawny person seated next to me folded up his newspaper, turned to me and said, "Going to Singapore?"
"No, further." I say, hoping he'd get the message.
"Ah, where?" He persists. I should have seen it coming.
"My parents have been there. They steal from you in the hotels and streets. But the Filipinos are nice."
No, this wasn't going to work out at all. To make things worse, they start serving food, when I want to switch off. For a change I actually like the food they're serving me.
And then from my left, "What caste are you?"
WHAT?! I splutter and then I choke!
And then, "You must be a brahmin. I have great respect for people of your caste... I had a teacher in school I really liked..."
"You don't eat non-veg, do you? It will be difficult for you to travel. Ah, I hope you don't mind - I'm taking non- veg."
"I don't really care what you eat." I stab the fork into the panneer on my plate with a force I'd have liked to use on his neck.
"These Indians, always running around for money. It is difficult to make a good life here. You get a pittance!" That small, brown man who had left India 31 years ago to make more money in the USA says. "Everywhere there is corruption. No value for you. What is your salary?"
I wonder why I choke again.
I stare resolutely at my lift-up entertainment screen. The critter won't take a hint.
"Are you married? For how long? How many children?"
Jeez! Will they turn off the lights please!
This, unfortunately, is an abridged version. I have to take many more flights before I come home. On subsequent flights, I refuse food, put on eye shades and pretend to go to sleep the moment the plane takes off.
* * *
The Filipinos are really lovely people. Not over ambitious, content with what little they have, loving the West, and its men. Filipino women are beautiful, slim and friendly.
My friend Dave gives me a run down on the history of the place, its revolution, its dictators, its economy and its malls. And boy! Are there malls or WHAT! Huge, sprawling hubs, bustling with people any time of the day, shops selling familiar brands, smells and looks, a culture homogenised by globalisation and free trade.
But outside the malls, just like India. Like Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi... urban slums co-exist with middle and upperclass Manila. Their below-poverty-line criteria is 18,000 pesos per month, we are told. That is about 17,000 INR. Wow! But there is inflation to account for.
The new Expressway to Angeles, a city North West of Metro Manila is like our Pune Expressway or East Coast Road. However, it seems to be the best the nation has and they are justifiably excited. The former US Air-Force Base in Angeles is like an American city after all. So different from the Philippines that exists outside, with its tricycles, crammed share- autos, buses...
Neuva Ecija is further east, leading off from towns into rice fields, mostly green with fresh crop or brown after a recent harvest. Again like rural South India or Kerala. Can the weather be any different then? Sweat! NAh!
* * *
Pics from Manila will be up in a day or two. I've spent too much time getting my links in alphabetical order! Tch, the mad things I do.