The Philippines: A day zero conversation

A 23 hour flight later, the wheels of Japan Airlines’ JL7235 finally touched down onto the runway turf in Manila.

I was out of the airport in less than 11 minutes, out-stretched my hand as a part of the ambiguous cab hailing procedure and instantly had a smiling cab-lady pullover.

The journey to the hotel was going to be 37 minutes long she said as she flipped a switch to get the meter running.


It was really easy to communicate with the filipino people, English being their second language owing to them having been an American colony for the longest time. According to another local I met later during the trip, they have mostly grown up on Western music, Full House, FRIENDS and a host of other good stuff churned out of the LA-based media factories (much like urban India?).


“Is there going to be much traffic along the way?”

“Yes, bad traffic sir. It is rainy season so everyone is trying to get back home before flooding time”

“There’s going to be a flood?”

“Yes, around 10pm”

“But it’s already 9:46”

“Yes sir, bad timing of your flight. Don’t worry, only feet get little wet” she said while using her thumb and forefinger to try and quantify the height to which my feet would be submerged.

I promptly removed my bag from the floor of the car. This should be interesting.


Apparently owing to slower infrastructural development and a rapid rise in purchasing power, there are way too many cars on the roads. A unique (at least to my ears) scheme the Philippines government has come up with to help the cause has been to disallow each private vehicle from operating on one of the days in the week. The no-driving day is indicated through the number plate (ends with a ‘2’? You can’t drive on Tuesdays).


With 34 minutes to to go, I figured I might as well engage in some good old-fashioned small talk.

“It’s just the beginning of July, summer’s over already?”

“We just have 2 seasons here sir. Summer and rain. Then more rain. Haha”

“You here on vacation sir? Not many of your people come to Philippines?”

“No, I’m here on work for a few weeks”should I just assume that she meant Spanish, Greek or Italian by ‘your people’? I decided to not burst my bubble and instead artfully circumvent her rhetorical question.

“Oh, where you work?”

“I work with Google, so I’m visiting the local office here”

“What is Glueglue?”





“N..Yes. Glueglue. It’s an internet company”

“Aaah you work on internet! All you young kids always on internet. That why you have fat glasses.”

Yep. Small talk was officially not quite working out for me anymore.

“What plan you have for tomorrow sir?”

“Nothing really. Will just go out and walk around the city all day”

“Oh no no. Bad idea” She said, with seemingly not having given my idea much consideration at all.

“What? Why is it a bad idea”

“Tomorrow is taihun. You will get stuck if outside”

“Oh, is that a local festival of some sort? I didn’t read about it anywhere”

“Sir, what you say? Taihun is rain and storm. You go out, you will fly away”

“Wait, typhoon? Is there a typhoon scheduled for tomorrow?”

“Yes, yes! How you not know?!”

“It didn’t say so anywhere on the internet”

“Aaah you young kids always on internet. Still not know of big Typhoon”

Alright, enough of this small-talk. 13 minutes to go.

You can criticize my fat glasses, but you cannot just insinuate that my web-searching skills are sub-par! I refuse to answer any further questions from this lady.

“Your English really good sir. Much better than most other passengers”

Unless, of course, her questions include an optimum amount of flattery. Good save lady.

“Thank you! Yes, most of ‘my people’ can communicate quite well in English. You have really good English too”


The local language in the country is called Tagalog. It has about a 101 dialects across the over 700 islands that comprise the Philippines. Travel about 30kms in either direction of Manila and the version of Tagalog spoken will be significantly different. English however, would still work no matter which remote island of the country you find yourself in.


With 9 minutes to go and a drizzle beginning to hit the windshield, we finally got off a long highway and now entered a clearly urban city complete with tall high rises bursting with color, massive malls bursting with people and ornate churches with characteristic Spanish architectural elements (that I can’t detect even if my life depended on it, but it says so on the internet, thereby deeming it undeniably true).


The Philippines was, for the longest time, under Spanish rule only to get independence in 1898 after the Philippine Revolution with the help of the Americans. What they didn’t realize back then was that the Americans were not leaving their island anytime soon either. So a lot of the older structures boast of a massive Spanish influence, while the culture is evidently influenced by the US to quite an extent.


With the drizzle now turning into a downpour, our skilled cab-lady took a swift turn into an alley where the word HOTEL was spelt out at the end with dodgy looking neon colored LEDs.

“Okay sir, your hotel is here. That will be 700Pesos. You lucky, no flood today. But be careful of taihun tomorrow”

With that wonderful forewarning, I bid our lady goodbye and entered the hotel looking forward to what this wonderfully friendly country had to offer beyond day 0.

This should be interesting.


Solitude in the crowd.

Perhaps like a million others, I am immensely fascinated by the Golden Gate Bridge.

Apart from it’s strong foundational architecture and unique color and form, there is always an eerie fog that surrounds and engulfs it, imparting a unique sense of splendor.

A mammoth structure, in hiding. Brilliance, without a propensity for vanity.

[The picture above was taken from Fort Baker, right across the bridge while driving from the city]


There was a monolithic structure that stood tall in the lonely land of Shavona. A structure built over time, a structure no one knows of, but the two little builders that looked upon it with eyes of glee and hearts filled with an irreplaceable satisfaction.

A satisfaction, so profound, yet unshared. There existed a sense of possessiveness in the containment of their shared happiness. Shared with none other but themselves.

A structure, the Talisman, that would stand testament to the togetherness of the builders and the collaborative patience, passion and dreams of the two. The two that the world wouldn’t care to notice. It was a grand loneliness in togetherness. The binding created by a mutual understanding of the thought that settling within the minutest niche satisfies more than the company of any eclectic or esoteric crowd on Earth.

Earth. A mass whose inhabitants know of an inevitable end. The end of races, of hatred, of lives, of Shavona.

As the inevitable law of this mass stood taller than the realm of control of our wondrous builders, the Talisman did eventually, one fine winter morning where the sun rose from the East, develop the tiniest crack, and then another, and then another through it’s core.

At times like these, when the settled state is shaken, when the Gods seem to be conspiring against, when the helplessness of the mortal being is exposed, there is nothing that our worker duo – the gleeful lady in red, the naive boy in blue – could do, but close their eyes, bring their hands together and breathe. Together, one last time.

An era ahead in time, the land of Shavona still breathes. As lonely in it’s existence as the skeletons of the buried. The only fragments of a recent history being the many broken pieces of the monolithic structure that once stood tall, built by the bare hands of the builders that tried.  The shining, beautiful, immovable, scattered pieces of the Talisman of yore, that together tell a story of the loneliest form of togetherness, the blissful power of formation borne out of pure human will, emotion and compassion.

Earth. A mass whose inhabitants know of an inevitable end. The end of races, of hatred, of lives, of Shavona. Yet, not of the audaciousness and power of the history of the combined human spirit.

London & Google

I recently got to visit London for the first time, for work, and was not too surprised to find the city to be a massive pot of politics and culture, very well brewed together and presented through the sheek streets of SoHo, the royal brilliance of the Buckingham Palace, the hippie-ness of the Shoreditch Area, and so much more.

If, like me, you are an avid fan of movies like V for Vendetta, Clockwork Orange, Revolver or any of the Guy Ritchie movies; If you like the music from Radiohead, Oasis, Portishead, Aqualung or Cornershop – You would know really quickly that the UK is doing something very right, to be able to produce such an eclectic range of thought provoking music and cinema.

Also, of course, the british accent, with it’s amazing quirkiness adds a lot to the charm.

DSC_0281_good DSC_0136

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The Google office in London was just absolutely spectacular as well. It felt like a preview for a future world – made of steel, wood, neon lights, indoor parks and jazzy artwork leaving no wall to spare.

IMG_20140510_164118~2 London & Google

Bloody well hope to visit this rainy, dark, culturally rich city for a longer period of time real soon.


Fitter Happier

I have always liked Radiohead. The kind of music they created in the ’90s has been the kind that has always been a pleasure to hear for the sheer truthfulness in it’s notes and lyrics. It’s not happy, it’s not hopeful, it’s mostly an honest motley of thoughts penned together brutally depicting who we are, as we are – Always looking for excuses to find happiness, peace and attempts to fit in by adopting laughter, applause and glorified small talk.

This bit about ‘Fitter Happier’ from OK Computer is precisely why I feel I won’t be getting over Radiohead anytime soon.

“Fitter Happier” consists of sampled musical and background sound and lyrics recited by a synthesised voice from the Macintosh SimpleText application.[67] Written after a period of writer’s block, “Fitter Happier” was described by Yorke as a checklist of slogans for the 1990s, which he considered “the most upsetting thing I’ve ever written”.[52][68] The track was considered for the album’s opening track, but rejected because the band considered the effect off-putting.[31] Steve Lowe called the song “penetrating surgery on pseudo-meaningful corporations lifestyles” with “a repugnance for prevailing yuppified social values.”[6] Among the loosely connected imagery of the lyrics, Footman identified the song’s subject as “the materially comfortable, morally empty embodiment of modern, Western humanity, half-salaryman, half-Stepford Wife, destined for the metaphorical farrowing crate, propped up on ProzacViagra and anything else his insurance plan can cover.”[69] Sam Steele called the lyrics “a stream of received imagery: scraps of media information, interspersed with lifestyle ad slogans and private prayers for a healthier existence. It is the hum of a world buzzing with words, one of the messages seeming to be that we live in such a synthetic universe we have grown unable to detect reality from artifice.”

Social vegetabl-ism: Here we come!

“As we understand the reasons for the declines in social involvement, there will be implications for social policies and for the design of Internet technology”

This was clear from a study way back in ’98 itself.


Such social policies to attempt to reduce the negative impact of technology on emotional well-being, have still not really been implemented. The degree of online/mobile involvement is still only restricted to an individuals level of personal restraint.

As technology only seems to be growing exponentially, reaching more people – Especially kids growing up with no sense of living in a world sans technology over-involvement, the results of this growth upon emotional well-being can only become increasingly disastrous.

There really seems to be a strong need for common internet policies to protect the kids of the new millennia from becoming social vegetables- At least compared with the humans of the pre-internet age.

This old video, is still pretty awesome.