February 18, 2010

Bhola Shocker

The next time you are out in Delhi or any other Indian city, step out on the road and walk. There’s every chance you’ll return refreshed, roadside shockers notwithstanding or maybe because of them.

No one in India claims English is their first language excepting maybe a few but that will not stop the enterprising street-side entrepreneurs from advertising their services in English, like Bhola’s open air enterprise under a large tree in Delhi does.

If it were not for the two shock absorbers hanging from nails driven into the tree I might have spent a wee bit longer making sense of the board. Sure there were illustrations on the board but the letters were so prominent as to momentarily shock one into staring at them, the incredulity of it all.

Pegged to a pole in front of the tree the board read: BHOLA SHOCKER & KAMANI REPAIR.

No. The owner does not go by the name BHOLA SHOCKER. He probably goes by Bhola. Whoever painted the board had more than an extra lick of red paint to bandy around.

Shocker is local lingo for two-wheeler shock absorbers while Kamani is its equivalent for the four-wheeler shock absorbers, particularly trucks.

Kaman is Hindi for ‘arc’, or a ‘bow’, the shape of four-wheeler shock absorbers, so I would imagine Kamani would have derived from Kaman.

Bhola is local for simpleton or simple. It’s likely Bhola started young, assisting his mentor while gaining more than a nodding familiarity with friendly truckers stopping at the garage for repairs and before long the name will have stuck like with the proverbial child-helper at the neighbourhood chai ka dukan who will continue to be called Chotu long after he has outgrown his shorts and now runs his own streetside tea shop. I'll leave the story of how the happy as 'ell Sikh kid came to be called Happy Singh for another day.

India’s truckers cannot imagine a life without these roadside repair shops on their long distance hauls. Once an apprentice or assistant learns the ropes Indian roads benefit by an added service point. Their enterprise depends upon their ability to innovate with resources at their disposal, often limited, and their trust in the usually sorry state of roads on long distance runs to send business their way.

Soon enough a tea shop, and a dhaba will materialize to cater to truckers stopping by the roadside garage.

While the other shops in the vicinity had pegged their boards to the roof above the entrance like the Sai Dhaba adjacent to Bhola’s, his own functioned in the shade of the tree with implements stored in makeshift wooden cupboards behind the tree. A white car, its bonnet open, stood in the repair dock. Evidently, Bhola serviced more than just faulty shock absorbers.

On a wooden bench outside a tea shop, adjacent to Sai Dhaba, several men sat sipping tea.

And life carried on as usual, shockers et al.

Sometimes, to be oblivious is to be set free of constraints even when it is an occasionally obvious intangible like say, an alien language!

Note: If you’ve any visuals of shockers to share from your travels around India and would like to share them here I’ll be glad to run them in a post with due credit. Mail me at my contact listed in the side-bar.


Riot Kitty said...

A neat local culture lesson...thank you!

Anuradha Shankar said...

Good one! shall look out for such signs next time i go somewhere! btw, thnx for explaining abt the 'shocker' and 'kamani'.. had no idea..

Serendipity said...

Seen at the back of an auto in Delhi:
Manglikmarriages.com, where mangliks marry mangliks .. don't werry be happy

Anil P said...

Riot Kitty: Thank you. Street-side lingo in India can often be entertaining.

Anu: Thank you. Carry a camera along :-)

Serendipity: That too. Talk of advertising on the back of rickshaws :-)

Anjuli said...

so enjoyed this post. I was smiling away as you broke down the sign with the various meanings. Really great!

I'm over in Ghana right now- and I wish I had my camera- because some of the signs here are just superb and would make 'Bhola Shocker' have some competition!! :)

Nisha said...

Ha Ha ....
Not only Delhi but whole north India is famous for such spellings. Sometimes it's the pronunciation that makes spelling.

radha said...

Signs like these and even those on lorries besides the OK Horn Please are a treat to read. I always tell myself it is not right to laugh, as you said, English is not our language, but still it does bring a smile.

Fishbowl said...

Walking is a really liberating, and relaxing feeling.

Especially having the time to walk.

I do wonder if I will bump into Bhola Shockers

at some point in the Capital City.

neha said...

Haha! This was such a fun post. I love desi signs. They make for the most fun photos, and as you've proved, stories too.

Anil P said...

Anjuli: Thank you. Would be fun to see the road signs or signs along the road. Try and post some. I'm sure Bhola Shocker will have stiff competition from over there :-)

Nisha: Actually, all of India is fair game for these funny signs along public roads, made funny by literal translations from desi pronounciations of English.

Trust the Desi phonetics to throw up some laughs.

Radha: The sayings on the back of trucks are fun read as well, sometimes they are heavy with meaning. Mostly to be found on the back of long distance trucks criss crossing India.

It's okay to laugh :-)

Fishbowl: Yes, it is. Walking, more so if there's some space to do so.

I'm sure there'll be sufficient 'other' Bhola Shockers around :-)

Neha: Thank you. Sign spotting can be a great exercise for the soul :-)

Lynn said...

You have such a discerning eye for interesting things. I love coming by your blog.

Anil P said...

Lyn: Thank you. Knowing how you feel about these posts means much. It's a pleasure to have you visit here.

Kate said...

Wonderful. I look forward to the Happy Singh story.

Shyamanga said...

Another great read. BHOLA SHOCKER would be a great name for a art rock/blues act. Bhola Shocker, Joe Cocker...sounds nice.

Cate said...

A wonderful story. Great humour and thought, and insight. You do have a good eye for ideas. Can't wait to see your published works in the future and ask for your autograph at some out of the way booksigning stint.

Anil P said...

Katherine: Thank you. Hopefully yes. The Singhs or Sardars as they are often referred to in India are inventive with their names.

Shyamanga: Thank you. Yes, Bhola Shocker would be an apt name for a Rock Band.

Cate: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoy reading these posts. Your digital space is an excellent read.

This in the form of a book? hopefully sooner than later if all goes well :-)

Unny said...

ha ha good one.

we too have come across similar 'shockers'. check this entry..

happy travelling!!

Anil P said...

Unny: Thank you. I had a look. Well Rise with the Rice.

Amber Star said...

Anil P.,
Thank you for another interesting story. From time to time I see some hand lettered signs next to the street, but don't remember what they said. Having to translate to another language can make some of them very humorous.

Anil P said...

Amber Star: Thank you. Very much so. Literal translation can throw up some unexpected laughs.

sm said...

like the pics

Granny J said...

Hi -- after being away from my computer for more than a month, I am back, trying to catch up! So interesting what happens to a language when the speakers are separated from one another by great distances...

Anil P said...

SM: Thank you.

Granny J: Welcome back. Great to know you're doing well.

Language separated by great distances will sometimes evolve in different, unpredictable ways.

Amrit said...

Cool post. Refreshing my memories