India's intriguing signboards

On a homestay holiday in a residential area like Delhi’s South Extension Part II, my family and I experienced how locals live. With Delhi as our base, we made day-long sightseeing trips to Jaipur in Rajasthan state and Agra in Uttar Pradesh state. 

An interesting and intriguing sign!
As we walked about, drove around, explored sites, shopped for souvenirs and savoured the delicious cuisine, we became familiar with India’s way of life punctuated by the constant honking in the streets, despite the many signs reminding drivers not to honk!

I also saw many signboards with phrases in the English language that smacks of distinct Indian courtesy mixed with a dash of humour and sarcasm.  

Here are ten interesting signboards spotted in India that are both amusing and intriguing:

Risky valet parking

The shopping area in South Extension Part II is a mix of modern department stores like recognizable brands Marks & Spencer and Westfield in their own buildings side-by-side with shops within rows of double-storey buildings and small hole-in-the-wall stores.

Park at your own risk
Parking space is a premium along narrow roads with hardly any space in front of the shops and some buildings guarded their own forecourts jealously to prevent unauthorized parking of vehicles.  

I paused when I spotted this sign and wondered if I would ever leave my car to a valet to park here and risk coming back to discover that my car was missing?  

I guess only drivers, desperate for a parking space, may take the risk as they are already forewarned that parking is really at the owner’s risk!

Tyres will be deflated

Fair warning given...
Walking pass homes in the residential area of South Extension Part II, we saw how space is maximized by building houses up to three stories high with narrow driveways, usually parked with one or two cars.  

We spotted this sign on the closed gates of some homes and agreed with this universal issue because there’s nothing more annoying to a driver than an irresponsibly parked car that was obstructing his driveway.  

These homeowners are giving fair warning because any errant vehicles just risked getting their tyres deflated!

A Trial Room?

Go to the Trial Room to try on your garments
Even in India, I like shopping for garments in stores that has fitting rooms so that I can try on for a proper fit before I bought the items.  It’s easy to pick choices at a store like Fabindia because the garments are arranged by design types like short or long kurtas.  

After I made my selections, I head to the fitting room and come to a halt at its door because I had to read the small print on the sign to confirm that the Trial Room was in fact, the fitting room. No, this is not part of a legal courtroom where we go to trial but here the Trial Room is where shoppers try on the garments!

No loaded guns, please!

The McDonald’s sign is easily recognised even in South Extension Part II but we prefer Indian cuisine so we picked the restaurant situated above it. 

From the polished brass plaques of the signboard at its entrance, we know this is a posh restaurant and paused to read before entry. 

It started with the right of entry which is to the discretion of the management, followed by a dress code reminder. 

We looked at our casual outfits and wondered if we would be refused entry but they were gracious to allow us in.  

All of us were above age to enjoy a drink with our meal but the final plaque made us realise that it was not unusual for people to walk around armed with guns!

Stilted warning for speedsters

Delhi is now connected to Agra by the Yamuna Expressway, a modern dual-carriageway each way designed with three-lanes complete with wide road shoulders and clear signs. 

As our driver drove us on the comfortable expressway, I can’t help noticing this tongue-in-cheek warning to drivers who are prone to speeding.  

While it is a stern warning, it’s interesting how a typically Indian courtesy mixed with sarcasm is used here.  

The words on the sign proves that the authorities are aware that drivers can’t help but enjoy speeding on this expressway but the warning is, over-speeding will invite prosecution!

A caustic but clever warning

Another strong message posted on a building wall near the toll gates of the Yamuna Expressway, shouts a clear warning to drivers who may be tempted to drive recklessly.  

The reminder to drive safely is clearly emphasized by the stark comparison between the car’s headlights and the human head.  

It is such a caustic but clever way to drive home a reminder to drive safely!

So many prohibited items!

The sign hanging in front of our seat on the buggy
A great deal of changes have taken place since my previous visit to the majestic Taj Mahal, including a visitor center with carpark and where tour guides approach you to offer their services. This building is situated a fair distance away from the main entrance and visitors are ferried there on buggies. 

On boarding our buggy, the first things that catches my eyes is the large sign reminding visitors of the items prohibited in the Taj Mahal. Designed with pictorial illustrations, we counted 18 items and made a quick check if we are carrying any such items. 

The closest item I’m guilty of carrying is not toffees but herbal lozenges. When the security guard checks my bag and finds the packet of lozenges covered in unfamiliar Chinese writing, I must demonstrate a cough to show him that I need these lozenges to soothe my throat. He relented and let me pass!

No entry to the fountains

A reminder to visitors who may be tempted to jump in!
I can’t help smiling when I read this sign. My imagination soared to scenes in romantic Tamil movies where the male and female lead danced around trees and in such a lovely setting as the Taj Mahal, may even continue with a cavort into the fountains. 

But the reality is how the scorching heat may tempt visitors to cool off at the nearest water-hole, which happens to be the fountains.  

There must have been prior incidents that caused the authorities to put us such signs to remind visitors that, Entry in the fountains is prohibited.

Reassuring for women passengers

Check out that sign on the back of this coach taxi
Traffic was heavy on our drive to Jaipur in Rajasthan state and our driver explains that they have yet to build an expressway on this popular tourist route. 

We hold our breaths as the driver skillfully avoids the rush of heavy vehicles like trucks and tankers as well as idle cows lying by the road. 

My eyes are peeled to capture every scene in the local landscape and when we trail behind this coach taxi, my eyes are riveted to the sign on its window. It reminds me that most women in India are still treated as secondary citizens and often abused but it’s heart-warming to see that this taxi operator assures women passengers of their respect.

Why such empty shoe shelves?

Looks like nobody wants to risk losing their footwear!
The sun was beating down mercilessly on our arrival at the entrance of the Raj Ghat memorial park to visit Ghandi’s tomb and when I see that footwear must be removed before entering the park, I hesitate because my feet would be hurt by the heated ground. 

While the others are removing their footwear, I do likewise. [Inside the park, nylon netting sheets on the ground kept the soles of my feet from being fried.] 

On the right, were shoe shelves prepared for visitors to store their shoes but they look empty.  But on the left, visitors are handing their shoes over to helpers for a fee, I guess, to be responsible for their shoes.  When I look closer at the empty shoe shelves, I read the sign that coolly announces that the shelves are provided as free service but at your own risk!  No wonder nobody uses this free service!

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 27 April 2017

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