Multilingual railway coaches

You have heard of multilingual signs on railway stations in India. They will have at least 2 languages, English and Hindi and whatever else is widely used in that area-the regional language such as Tamil or Bengali, Urdu in some states and sub-states, the neighboring state’s language and so on.

There are numerous stations with 4 languages, and at least two with 5: Raichur in Karnataka and Krishna in Telangana, which have English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu.

Sometimes it seems illogical to find some languages on a signboard, such as in Cachar and two other districts of Assam where the signs have Bengali and not Assamese. (Nothing unusual since Bengali is the official language here).

Sri Lanka seems to have a strict 3-language formula of Sinhala/English/Tamil which is followed regardless of the Sinhala or Tamil population in a particular place.

Bangladesh has a simpler policy: Only Bengali, except for larger stations where English is added.

Pakistan seems to generally follow the Indian pattern with English and Urdu everywhere and regional languages as well, in Sind and parts of KP province but not in Baluchistan.

A few posts on station signs and language policies are elsewhere on this blog.

Anyway, today we look at an unusual coach in Chennai:

MSM wagon 1

MSM wagon 2

Copyright of these pictures is with the original photographer.

These pictures were taken some years ago at the Perambur workshops (NOT the ICF). Not sure where it is now.

As you can see, this broad gauge troop wagon belonged to the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, and probably dates back to the 1930s or earlier.

In its time, the M & SM (“Mails Slowly Moving”) covered parts of the present Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Thus the sign has English, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil which should cover all eventualities where the wagon would carry troops (Not Malayalam, though the Shoranur-Mangalore section appears to have been under the M & SM for some time).

Also note that a British soldier’s bottom is understood to be larger than his native counterpart’s bottom.

 

Oddities in station signs in India-1

First, we look at examples of station signs in some languages which you may not see often.

The only major station with Maithili:

Darbhanga station Maithili

And the only station in Manipur, which naturally has Manipuri:

Jiribam-manipuri

Note the brand new broad gauge line above.

As you would know, the language policy for railway stations (and most Central government buildings, such as post offices) would be to have English, Hindi and the regional language. If Hindi is the local language then there would be two languages on the board, and more if some other language is common in that area.

Examples of English + Hindi are common in Rajasthan , Haryana and Madhya Pradesh although a few stations do have Urdu as well.

From Rajasthan:

Note that the picture from Jaipur shows a metre gauge line which will not be around for long.

From Haryana:

 

Now we move to some states where English is the main official language (although other spoken languages are commonly used). You would probably not heard of most of these places:

Dimapur, Nagaland:

Dimapur

Bairabi, Mizoram: (This is from metre gauge days but broad gauge has now come here)

Bairabi

Mendipathar, Meghalaya:

Mendipathar

Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh:

Naharlagun

Note that in Hindi-speaking states the Hindi inscription is at the top. In most states the regional language (say Bengali or Tamil) is at the top. In the signs above from Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya English is at the top but in Arunachal Pradesh the Hindi inscription is at the top.

At the moment Sikkim is the only state with no railway line at all, though the mileage is negligible in several of the North-eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland). In some states there is precisely one station about a kilometre inside the border. Assam and now Tripura are somewhat better served.

A typical trilingual sign would be this one in Gujarat, much beloved of cricket fans:

Sachin

Meanwhile, there are signs in four or even five languages elsewhere on the Indian railway network. More on these later.