Sunday, March 26, 2006

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.



Anonymous Razib Ahmed said...

How many Indians did you see in Philipines? Did you see people from other SOuth Asian countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc)? If possible please write some in your next post.
I have written a series of posts in
my business blog about
Remittance sent by South Asian people
living abroad to their own countries.

5:38 pm

Blogger the wannabe indian punkster said...

youre baaaaackkkkk! yoo-hoo!
Oh god...tell me about these dumb people who just wont keep their traps shut...on my way back to the States I was sitting next to an Indian uncle, who just wouldnt shut up, even after I PUT MY HEADPHONES ON!
I could still see him looking towards me talking away, like I can hear him or something...
I mean do they have dementia?
Are they blind and deaf or are they just lonely?
PS: waiting for the pics on your photoblog:)

10:51 pm

Blogger SamY said...

missed being the 1st to comment :(

ha ha ... this is better ... @ least an unknown person ... I had to put up with my own college buddy ... every sentence had to have the 'f' word n his darn ausi accent ... fretting about indians sitting along with us #-o ... I was glad to get out in one piece wonderin how many understood him ... n he didn't stop even after I started watchin a movie ... took him a while to realize *-:)

worse yet ... I had a perfectly inane person sitting next to me @ a concert *ooof* ... almost for 15 min he was interrogating me ... fortunately I had a friend sitting alone ... she saved my ass

I thought indians were the one who wudn't keep out mouths shut ... luks like I'm beten on that ;)

12:58 am

Blogger Without Borders said...

dear ramya: seems like you had a very busy schedule here in the philippines. that probably explain why i failed to catch you after our meeting at ortigas center. been calling your hotel each afternoon til thursday hoping i could chance you were there so we could have a simple filipino dinner together. anyway, the world is small and getting smaller and i know someday we are going to meet again. its nice to know that you seemed to enjoy seeing the best and the worst of my country.

6:36 am

Blogger WA said...

OMG He asked you what? What has caste got to do with anything during the journey, stupid people. Looking fwd to the photographs

11:17 am

Blogger TLW said...

Coming back after a long time, but at the right time !!!

Awaiting Pics !!!

And travel makes life worth living , nah? I'm jealous about your job ;-) !!! Is there a way I can sneak in to??? *grin* - say as an escort to a reporter, oops sorry Special Correspondent !!or possibly a cameraman?
Gosh, but I wont leave this job too ;-))

11:52 am

Blogger Sriram said...

Ah! the pleasures of a painful journey, did you "accidentally" smack him in the face with your carry-on luggage? (Yesh, that ij what I do when I get an annoying passenger next to me :D)

10:57 pm

Blogger Mahadevan said...

Pestilential passengers must have provided you enough materials to Blog about.

1:08 pm

Anonymous Ravi said...

Your coming back with fun experiences et al was a given, if you ask me. Now its my turn to ask - what have you got for me from manila? No, you can keep your memories, I say! What about that IPOD that I hinted, pre travel?

2:05 pm

Blogger None said...


hi, met a very few indians in Manila. even that at a party thrown by an Indian diplomat currently in manila, in our honour!
i wish i had met more, but...


4:51 pm

Blogger None said...


i think they're crude and they have hard hides.
pics coming up, soon...


4:52 pm

Blogger None said...


i don;t think i could've taken the concert bugger! however, i remember once, when we were a buncha rowdy audience at a mamma mia show in broadway! we were the only ones that seemed to be enjoying and the whole auditorium kept shushing us! :) mortifying, but if you are in a group, you can get away with it! :)


4:54 pm

Blogger None said...

dave, thanks for the post, i say. makes me feel really embarrased! :) btw, linking you up here!


4:56 pm

Blogger None said...


my point precisely. what has caste to do with ANYTHING! :X
pics coming up soon!


4:56 pm

Blogger None said...


well, there are a number of people hoping to do that! but i've told them, it can get REALLLY boring sometimes! :)


4:57 pm

Blogger None said...


o i just ignore these types. dont touch with bargepole attitude! :) but i'm glad there are ppl like you around. i hope the critter that bugged me sits next to you on a flight and pays for all his sins! :)


4:59 pm

Blogger None said...


my funda is why dignify them with more than one post? even that came outa great frustrtion! :)


5:00 pm

Blogger None said...


i-pod?! huh, now what's that! you will get some chocolates though if you can forget what i forgot!


5:01 pm

Blogger bunky jumping pundit said...

u must have had a terrible experience on that flight...i wonder why people are still particular about caste in this age....crazy people...

10:16 pm

Blogger Jay said...

I have just one piece of advice: iPod.

Manila scares me. I must say I never felt safe the when I was there - and I was there four times. OMG.

6:16 am

Blogger None said...


ipod?! whassat? :)

really. well, me and a colleague actually took a walk in the middle of the night in metro manila. we felt safe. and four times?! to manila?! WHY?


6:32 pm

Blogger None said...


i felt like killing that man. yes, i guess you cd say it was terrible. but then, he votes for bush, what do you expect, because the democrats "promote homosexuals and all those people"!?
in case ur wondering, i'm just quoting him


6:42 pm

Blogger Sathish said...

Just think of a world, where everyone is polite, gentle, smiling and follow etiquette ... Well, it is just an experience... None can make us angry unless we choose to..

3:31 pm


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