Sign boards at public spaces are full of spelling mistakes, but nobody is bothered

The task of deciding what to call the streets, squares, cross roads, traffic-roundabouts, colonies, and parks in a city is serious business. All kinds of political considerations -- local, regional and national -- have to be balanced. Sensibilities of those whose sentiments get hurt, the moment a hat threatens to drop, have to be kept in mind by the committee charged with the onerous responsibility of naming or, as is more often the case, renaming of whatever that is going to be renamed. The problems compound many fold if the personage to be commemorated through this act is a political figure from some other country.

Who you wish to commemorate would depend on what message do you, as a nation, want to communicate to the people of your own country, to the people of the nation to which the personality you have chosen to commemorate belonged, and also the message that you want to communicate to the world at large.

Over the last few years, some of our major roads in New Delhi and South Delhi were named after international figures like Joseph Broz Tito, Jamal Abdul Nasser, Ho Chi Minh and Bishop Makarios to name a few. Now many of these people did not come from countries where English or any of the other Indian languages is normally spoken, most of them have names that sound a little strange to our ears and some of their spellings are also a little different from the spellings that we are used to.

The best course of action to avoid the possibility of making any mistake in the spellings and creating a diplomatic faux pas would have been to ask. The best people to ask would be the Embassy of the concerned country, most conveniently located in New Delhi to help out in situations like these. But no one seems to have bothered to ask them, probably troubling a guest with such questions wasn't the polite thing to do.

The results are here for all to see, Jamal Abdul Nasser, the then president of Egypt and along with Nehru, Tito and Sukarno was one of the founders of the Non Aligned Movement. The sign board on the road bearing his name spells it as Naseer in English and Punjabi and Naaseer in Hindi. Almost everybody's name is spelled wrongly in Urdu all over the city but not on this sign board, perhaps the exception that proves the rule.

The great leader of the anti Imperialist struggle of the Vietnamese people Ho Chi Minh has, in the hands of those who decide such things, become Ho Chin Munh in Urdu and Hoi Chi Minh in other languages, Arch Bishop Makarios, the first president of the republic of Cyprus becomes Makorius in all four languages and to stay ahead of the others Urdu turns Archbishop into Archbisap.

It is not as if they do it only to foreigners, they are even-handed in their munificence having turned Moti Lal Nehru into Mati Lal Nehru and Buddha Jayanti Commemorative Park into Buddha Jyanti Commorative Park.

But amidst all this plentitude there is something from the MCD that takes the cake, this is a small notice, several small notices in fact, nailed on the outer wall of the Sarvodya Girls School, Green Park. The message in Hindi put up by the Municipal Corporation of India is untranslatable; it says “Do not do Bathroom here” whatever that may mean. From the more than Rs 28000 crore spent on the Commonwealth Games, could they not have spared enough to employ a few people who could read and write?

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