nine billboards outside dharamshala, india

We said goodbye this morning to our wonderful hosts and staff at the Basunti Lodge to make a trek to Dharamshala. The entire day was one of traveling up and down and around, left and right, a swerve here, a quick move there, with a stop at a Tibetan arts centre and a nunnery for female monks.

The sites are breathtaking as we moved closer and eventually climbed the mountains; sightings of another kind also provide some amusement or curiosity. In no particular order, these are the exact wording of signs (not exactly billboards; just a little poetic license) recalled from our journey.

Obey Traffic Rules

These words of advice from the local police would seem to be obvious but to think so means you have never driven in India. There appears, in fact, to be no rules. We drove through dozens of villages, and the occasional one had a stop sign at a juncture. No one stopped. Vehicles do stop randomly to shop from a roadside vendor, marginally pulling over and blocking traffic from behind, who then honk, veer into oncoming traffic who also honks and steers away, around the motorcycle passing in between. Difficult to obey something which does not appear to exist.

No Helmet. No Petrol.

One of our rest stops was adjacent to an Indian Oil gas station which hung this sign. Motorcycle drivers are required to wear a helmet according to Indian law, although you would never know based on a random sample of drivers in the street. If anything, you would think donning a helmet was a voluntary or prudent option which many decide otherwise. Even more bizarre, is that passengers do not require a helmet. I don’t understand the logic. I watched five motorcycle’s enter the station, four of them had a helmet and the fifth was served even with out one. Obeying your own rules also appears to be optional.

Plz do’nt touch!!!

Shops line the streets and everyone appears to be either selling or shopping. The closer we got to Dharamshala, the number of signs in English increased as did the number of people who were obvious tourists. The town caters to the visiting crowds and the relative wealth of the area reflects the increased activity.

We serve Indian, Chines, South Indian, Israeli, Italian

Food choices also begin to cater to the Western palate, adding some variety although I am not sure who are the  Chines or their style of food. This evening we ate Nick’s Italian Eatery. Tomorrow we could add some variety and eat at Jimmy’s Italian Eatery just a few doors down.

Be it women or men, all become literate

The inclusiveness is important and certainly, the goal is desirable if not easily attainable. It sounds more like a motto and to be fair, I saw this only in passing so I cannot provide the context.

Come to Learn. Go to serve.

This motto was part of a school displayed in big letters on the gate leading into the grounds. I expect it does not matter who is served but it struck me as counter to our expectation for education to provide the basis for leadership. I would agree, however, more attention to service would make the world a better place.

Save our leopards

Some of that learning hopefully involves an understanding on the interdependency of our world. We learned about the decline of the leopards from our hosts of the Basunti Lodge. As a result the monkey population has fewer natural enemies and has grown to threaten the livelihood of fruit farms. I saw only one of these signs and it appeared randomly buried amongst numerous others.

Brain and Spine Clinic

Storefront clinics are common, situated along the street beside grocers, dress shops, jewellery stores, and sewing machine repair garages. X-rays, cancer examinations, other procedures are all available. I thought medicine related to the brain might be a little more specialized and be run out of a hospital but perhaps convenience is more important.

Stick no Bills

I save this one for last as it exists, perhaps, as a plea to keep signs to a minimum.

“Signs, signs, everywhere there are signs. Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs.”

So says the Five Man Electrical Band from outside Ottawa, Canada.

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