A Tale of Two Cities


What Mumbai can learn from Hong Kong.

It seems only fitting to start the year with the words of one of my favourite philosophers, John Lennon: "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." While the former Beatle penned these words for his son Sean, with Yoko Ono, in the iconic song Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) from the album Double Fantasy, 1980 for me, it is a sort of thumb rule for living. Take my current situation. I am not a huge fan of travel, largely because I loathe the process of getting there translated, navigating the hell of Bombay Airport yet invariably all roads lead to Saki Naka.

Of all the cities in the world that I didn't want to visit, Hong Kong was up there and now it is my second home. Let me explain, I live in Bombay. It's a port city, money makes its world go round and the humidity makes us all stick. Sort of like Hong Kong, really. So why would I go on vacation to a place that is exactly like home? But this is where I was wrong. You really cannot judge a book by its cover and you cannot condemn a city for its high moisture content. The two cities are chalk and cheese.

For a former British colony, the people of Hong Kong speak very little English. From taxi drivers to supermarket staff, everyone stubbornly refuses to speak anything but Cantonese. Given it's been a city of expats for generations, it is odd that they don't extend themselves even a tiny little bit. Unlike India where everyone goes out of their way to speak whatever language the current tourist prefers. I know a guy in Colaba who is fluent in Russian, Spanish and Italian. Plus, he tailors and delivers wonderfully cut suits and shirts in eight hours.

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