Showing posts with label train. Show all posts
Showing posts with label train. Show all posts

July 22, 2011

Rectifying anomalies in barbers

Notes from a recent trip through the South:

How terminology varies is fascinating, always. Like, you call them signals, but in South Africa, they're known as robots. Just as well that somebody told me that ("Turn right at the second robot") before I ran into the word painted in large letters across the street. "Robot Ahead", now that might prove somewhat unsettling.

Just as fascinating is a word they use in Tamil Nadu. I've known them as roundabouts, and possibly there are other names too. In TN, the word is "roundana". I first heard it from the back of the car I was driving one evening, as part of the directions to where we were going ("Turn right at the next roundana"). The next morning, I saw it on a spiffy road sign, pointing to the said roundana.

Later discussion suggested that it comes from "round thana", though one spirited lady (you know who you are) put forward a case for "round turner". Either way, I like the evolved word. Nice ring to it (no pun intended), roundana.


Speaking of etymology and evolution, Chennai has a "Barber's Bridge", I learned on this trip. The story goes that when built in British times, it was called "Hamilton Bridge" after some engineer or official. Why is it called "Barber's" now?

Story goes too that Tamil-speakers pronounced "Hamilton" as something approximating "Ambilton", and that got corrupted to "ambattan", the Tamil word for "barber". And much later, some English-speaking official asked for a translation of this Tamil-sounding word, and thus did Barber's Bridge make its appearance.

All of which reminds me of how Panaji got transformed to Panjim (in particular, the pronunciation as "pan-gym"), and also how "Puduseri" mutated into "Pondicherry". Those stories, another time.


Then of course I must list the things I learned while travelling in an impossibly crowded bus to the railway station.

* A large wall of a school-building had these two words painted in giant blue letters: "Washing Water". I tried for a while to figure how you might wash water, then gave up.

* A nondescript building had this sign out front: "Garments Holdall Making Training Unit". I seriously considered alighting and signing up for the training course on the spot, but then realized my Rs 4 bus ticket would go waste.

* Truck on the side of the road had these words on the side: "Love Earth or Leave Earth". Kind of mildly apocalyptic.

* "Don't Take Eatables From Strangers They May Be Drugged." Enough said.


Wandering a college campus, I ran across a series of grey electrical junction boxes.

The first said: "BORN MAX (1882-1970) Founder of Quantum Theory in Physics."

The second said: "BOYLE ROBERT (1627-1691) Founder of Boyle's Law."

The third said: "ARCHIMEDES Founder of Archimedean Principle."

The fourth said: "THOMAS ALVA EDISON Inventor of the Incandescent Lamp and 1093 Discoveries."

Question: Where was I wandering?


Another railway station had enormous cutouts of a man in shirt and dhoti, with these words: "M Raghavaiah, GS NFIR and President, SRES. Our Hearty Welcome to Architect of VI CPC in Indian Railwaymen (payment of HPCA, NDA NHP MACI) and the only leader of all VI CPC anomalies should be rectified."

That's about as many acronyms as I can handle on a given day. Can someone explain to me what it all means?

The same station also had two large stone plaques set into the side of a building, commemorating the inauguration of the "stop pages" of certain trains.

I had no idea that stoppages of trains were marked by plaques. Learn something every day.


On the platform, waiting for my train, I found what I've been searching all my life for: the Crew Booking Lobby. I sneaked a peak inside. What do they do in crew booking lobbies, I wonder?

On a glass partition just inside the door I found some kind of answer: "Momentary Carelessness May Cause Valuable Lives."

Yup, I couldn't agree more.

November 30, 2010

Sorry aunty

A friend's 75+ year-old mother broke her hip the other day. Here's how.

She was at Solapur station, walking along the platform to catch a train. A young man suddenly leaped through a gap in the wall and ran across the platform, intent on catching his own train. He slammed right into my friend's mother. She fell on the platform and her hip broke.

She was in terrible pain. The person with her managed to get her into a car and took her to the hospital, but she says it was an excruciating nightmare. She is now at my friend's home in Bombay, recuperating.

And what of the young man?

He looked down at her, said "Sorry aunty" and rushed to catch his train.

August 18, 2010

My friend for life

Bombay-Delhi train journey, sleeper class on the Golden Temple Mail, some impressions. Maybe more later.

* Two men on berths near me are playing nonstop with their phones. One uses a stylus whose cap he carefully unscrews and carefully hangs on his finger, then taps furiously at the screen for hours on end. He calls his wife thrice through the journey, speaks to her in speedy Marathi, but for some inexplicable reason puts her on speakerphone. Thus it is that all of us in the compartment, and possibly some outside, find out that she paid Rs 320 for some sari blouses, she bought some mutton, her reaction to his suggestion that she should not sleep in the afternoon ("I shouldn't?") and her reaction to being told that he had just eaten a cucumber ("Be careful!").

The other man stares for long periods at his phone screen, which has a thick green arrow making circles, with the words "Please wait" above it. He's waiting, that's for sure.

* Woman and her grown son sit next to me. When it's sleeping time, she tells him to change his shirt. He refuses, but she gets up and digs a striped beige one out of their bag anyway. He says, "that's too short, that's very short", but takes it anyway and changes into it. On him, it is exactly the same length as the dark blue one he has taken off. The blue one, he folds carefully, then uses it to wipe the surface of the table near the window, spreads it on the table, leans his elbows on the shirt and looks around expectantly.

His mother produces dinner, also from their bag.

* Ratlam station is swarming with men in light green uniforms with white shoes. The uniforms say "Eureka Forbes", "Clean Train Station", "CTS" and "Your Friend For Life". (Who's my friend for life: Eureka Forbes? The station? The man in the uniform?)

Some of them mop our compartment, telling us curtly to get out of the way. Others mill around outside. On a parallel track is a goods train made up of those cylindrical coaches, marked "Not to be Loose Shunted" and "Fit For Vegetable Oil". One of the CTS Friends for Life walks deliberately over the tracks to this train and pees on its wheels.

* The cylindrical cars all look identical to me. Nearly all say "Capacity 70000 litres". Except one, which says "Capacity 69800 litres". What makes this one 200 litres smaller?

* Nagda station has a stall that's called "SIK and SUN'S". While I'm trying to decipher that, I note that the small structure next to it has two signs. The first says "Main Power Sub Station", spelled out exactly like that, but in Devanagari. The second says "Accident Relief Medical Equipment Scale II", spelled out in English.

* Nagda is where several college buddies spent six forlorn (I think) months as apprentices at a company. I visited them once in that time. So when I passed through Nagda this time, I fired off text messages to two of them to say I was thinking of them there. One wrote back thus: "Ah, mammaries! Does the place still smell of bowel vapours?"

Forlorn, I think.