Even if they deserve it, successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir should not be granted credit for the masterpiece gracing the Nallah Mar Road in Srinagar for decades, before some old-timer spared the time to advise an appropriate corrective measure. Call it the rather provincial outlook prevailing then beyond the city’s Khayyam-Shiraz Line, but not even petite and sophisticated college students were ever seen to have raised their eyebrows at signboards suggesting specializations in regionally-flavoured conjugations – modesty’s limits, as generally understood, were supposed to leave some room to appreciate the unintended humour, or ribaldry, beneath an inadvertent error rather than lapse into prudish censure. Because the new breeze the momentous changes since – Khayyam is now Khybar, and Shiraz the garrison Khybar was – have brought have reworked the region’s lexicon to the extent of replacing tauba with taboo, “Bengal Mating” can only elicit a yawn, and hardly anyone would recall similar gems strung on the Mar’s parallel shopping lines.
Out of consideration for enhanced public awareness perhaps (which downtowners and inhabitants farther down could not have escaped benefitting from), the missing letter has been reinstated, with the far more respectable “Bengal Matting” posing no threats either to the morals or the imaginations of passers-by. Obviously, progress and development carry many salutary spinoffs in their wake, but equally obviously, governments and administrations in Srinagar Kashmir appear to be inoculated against any possibility of spotting the howlers their geniuses produce in a hectic race for prominence and pelf. The nomenclature the city’s learned men have adopted, and approved, for a state-run hospital near the Khanyar police station smacks of a revolting ignorance of some of the basic phonetic rules of the Arabic language if not actually disrespect for the personality after whom the medical centre has been named. Surprisingly, the glaring distortion has neither been commented upon nor pointed out down several decades, despite the region teeming with “religious scholars” of all hues and ilks.
A more proper rendition, or transliteration of the name, as anyone even with below-average knowledge of qira’at ought to have pointed out, is Ghausia, and not Ghousia as the government has transcribed in a bold declaration of its, and the society’s, cultural illiteracy. Should the government, at some future date, decide to undo the mistake, it could take recourse of experts to further determine whether the correction ought to include the aspirant “h” at the end, and an accentuation or stress mark preceding it – lest the hospital’s name continue as another atrocity, in the manner of another signpost in the same locality depicting a mazar-e-shuhada as mazar-e-shoda.