Travel can be inspiring, enjoyable and also be a learning experience. Travel also can bore you to your bone marrow. I was never really a good traveler. During childhood, I had severe bouts of travel sickness. I had to be sedated with ‘Avomin’ tablets like a tiger in a zoo to prevent my bouts of retching and vomiting. Even though I loved to go around and see places and the people, the travel part used to scare all of us.
My daughter has inherited some of this problem. But luckily for her, she is comfortable in air-conditioned vehicles. I overcame this sickness once into teens. Today, I don’t have much of a problem as long as someone doesn’t puke in the surroundings!
I am not really good at driving. I have very little patience on the road and hence prefer not to drive on long distance journeys. But once I am not driving, I tend to fall asleep through most of the travels. My cousin Rajesh changed all that about a decade and a half ago. Whenever we traveled together, he would poke me at the slightest hint of my dozing off. He never used to sleep on travel and never allowed me to either.
That is how I started to stay awake during travel. And this opened a new and a very pleasant window in my life. I learnt to read Tamil during my travel to Coimbatore in 1995. While passing through busy roads of Tamilnadu, I started to configure Tamil letters and before I knew, I was able to read boards without much of a problem!
This habit of reading boards has stayed with me to date and has given me numerous opportunities to smile, chuckle and even guffaw! When I say ‘Boards’ they could be signboards, advertisement hoardings, banners, milestones or even menu cards in hotels. I have realized that if we keep our eyes open, every single journey can be fun; howsoever short or long it could be. You’ll never get ‘Bored’ if you keep reading ‘Board’ after another ‘Board’.
My first memory of such a board goes back to an age long before I made it a habit to read boards. It was somewhere in central Karnataka and was in vernacular. So I am afraid the essence will be lost in translation. But that was one real howler!
‘Indian Hare Cuting Saloon’ was an interesting board I remember from Karnataka. ‘All type of Alopathy Medisins sold here’ was another. “We deel with repare works of wach, cloaks, time-pice and atometic goods”. "Dublicat Kee for any lock" was a locksmith advertising! What will you buy from "Kalpana Reddymade Cloth Shope"? How about "Hole sale and Re tail Merchants"? The list can be endless.
I remember an old joke from one of Khushwant Singh's book. It was written at the back of a Petrol Tanker "Mera Bharat Mahan" and underneath there was ... HIGHLY INFLAMMABLE !
Does ‘Meels Reday’ board enthuse your taste buds? Kerala perhaps has given the maximum number of occasions to enjoy for this compulsive board-reader in me. Then there was this board outside a fruit-stall cum coffee shop: “Appil, Orenj, Gripe joose and Laim Soda”. They also sold ‘Milk-Sheik’!
One legend of a board went thus “PNP Memmorial Hospital”. When I pointed out this mistake, the authorities just brushed aside the issue saying any way it is pronounced as such in Kerala!
Kerala can turn Shah Rukh in to Ghan and Cricketer Gagan Khoda into Ghoda! It is the patented style of enhancing the ‘T’s and ‘M’s and converting the ‘K’ into ‘G’ and ‘P’ into ‘B’ and ‘T’ into ‘D’ that makes so many howlarious goof ups unique to Kerala. Hindi in Kerala will make for another story altogether and let me deal with that some other day.
Menu cards in many hotels not only tickle your taste buds, but also your funny bones! So you travel by Otto Riksha and keep your luggage in Clock room. Then you go to a ‘Hottel’ and taste some of the exotic items available in Kerala like Gopi Manjoori, Chilli Chikkan, Beaf Rost, Papper Dosa, Buttar Nan, Sweat Corne Soop, Hoat and Sore Soop, Vegittabil Cutlate and finally the most delicious Omblate!
Many small eateries in Kerala will be helpless if you want coffee. They’ll serve only ‘Kappy’. If there is a crying baby, you give a ‘nibble’ to soothe it. And if you have to relieve yourself, you’ve to go to ‘Toilate’.
If you keep your eyes and mind open, you’ll never have dearth of entertainment on the roads in India. So next time when you travel, try this. Perhaps we’ll have more to share. As and when I remember more or come across new ones; I will come back… Just remember that!
Parting shot: A board outside the 'Board Room' of an institution went thus... "Bored of Management"