From Madras to Manila

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Why is Manila Like Mumbai?

After reading my first post, a friend wrote to me to ask why I felt Manila resembles Mumbai, thereby getting into my good books forever as an Interested Reader of my blog. Or maybe he’s just concerned that there’ll be nothing new to see here in case he does land up for a holiday and hence would rather contribute his tourist dollars to some other country’s GDP.

Be that as it may, I actually meant to follow up the first post with an explanatory note but got sidetracked by the Beach Boys. Just shows that one should clearly think one’s marketing campaign through rather than publishing a teaser post only to forget the follow-up!

Thanks to this little mix-up you now have post 2 following post 6. I urge you all to re-read the posts in the intended order – 1, 7, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 (to be written) - in order to get a full and complete picture of our experiences. It will not matter one whit in terms of your appreciation of Manila but it will mean that I double my hits in a day, thereby doubling my chances (currently zero) of getting that lucrative publishing contract.

[The mathematically-oriented (read ‘nerds’) among you, might quibble about whether doubling zero chances actually makes any difference, but hey, who are we to argue with an entire publishing community?]

Anyhow, getting back to the Concerned Mumbaikar’s issue, I must say that there are points of similarity that I’ve noticed based on:

(a) hundreds of Bollywood movies shot in exotic foreign locations purporting to be in Mumbai

(b) thousands of TV ad spots shot in front of the ICICI building in the Bandra Kurla Complex and purporting to be in exotic foreign locations

(c) my ‘artists impression’ of how Mumbai is, which is a detailed picture developed over approximately zero visits there over the past two decades

Manila – Mumbai: Separated at Birth?

Gathering CloudsRain: It is almost eternally raining here. The only time when the sun does make a guest appearance is when you’ve remembered to carry your umbrella. My colleagues here tell me that the rainy season lasts till September, except when it stretches till December (there is no trace of irony when they make that statement). The only difference between Mumbai and here is that the drainage system is much better and chances of disappearing down a manhole are remote. I am told that Manila proper has an area where, if you get caught in traffic during the rain, it is advisable to get out of your car in an orderly fashion and make for high ground. Your car will almost certainly disappear under ten feet of water.

Traffic: According to, traffic is defined as “The passage of people or vehicles along routes of transportation”. Hah! The only ‘passage’ on the ‘routes of transportation’ here is that of time. The vehicles themselves stand still, sometimes for days on end. In fact, there are several people who bought cars in the nineties and have been trying to get out of the dealership ever since. Some have even been able to trade in their used cars for newer models while they wait.

This is possible because of the unique configuration of traffic lights here, which are programmed to detect the slightest movement of your vehicle and immediately allow the other line to pass. Each traffic light is loaded with a bank of dual-processor microprocessors that allow them to track hundreds of vehicles in parallel, making them inch back and forth in an endless synchronized dance. This has the advantage of keeping drivers occupied, as they might otherwise have engaged in non-essential activities such as eating, sleeping or expelling body waste.

JolligeeRoadside Food Joints: There are little food joints called Jolly Jeeps all over the place selling cheap but filling meals. Among other things, you get vada-pao. (I really hope you didn’t fall for that!)

Little Children Selling Things: Children selling flowers, matchboxes and suchlike at traffic lights are a common sight. Their task is made much easier thanks to the traffic.

Long, Grey Flyovers: The less said about these ugly constructions the better.

Public Urination: I’ve seen a few people urinating under flyovers, though not as many as in India.

[No, there’s no picture of that, you pervert!]


  • It's smart of the children to sell both flowers as well as matchboxes to suit each one's preference of being buried or cremated in the jams, eh?

    By Blogger Sumit, at 9:39 PM  

  • Some of the nightspots in South Mumbai (near the "Gateway to India") reminded me of Malate.

    By Blogger cvj, at 1:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home