Thursday, April 10, 2008

What's in a name?

[Image: Tulip garden, Srinagar]

What's in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
~William Shakespeare (1564-1616), greatest of the English dramatists

More than three hundred thousand tulips. Hundreds of exotic varieties in endless sequined rows. A proposed 90-acre golden meadow caressing the foothills of Zabarwan mountains. A riot of colors on the banks of Dal Lake.

To compliment the stunning landscape of Kashmir, they make everything beautiful in the vale. So we have a multi-colored garden, giving off fragrances from heaven, bang in Srinagar. The government claims it is Asia’s largest tulip garden, though I’ve my doubts. They are expecting lots and lots of footfalls as the tourist season unfolds. So far so good.

Since the myriad flowers in the garden radiate fluorescence, someone gave it a name: Siraj. That is Arabic for light. I noticed the dailies have started referring to it – in recent news items -- as Indira Gandhi garden. I don’t know how or why they chose to invoke Mrs Gandhi’s name. Azad, under whose watch the garden was inaugurated, is a balding congressman, whose only shot to fame is being in the good books of 10 Janpath. I reckon changing the name from Siraj – which ain’t frankly cool enough – to Indira doesn’t require much explaining.

We could have a more catchy appellation like ‘Million Blushes’ but I understand the associated basket of problems. The name won’t find many takers. Also it won’t resonate very well with the picnicking school teachers or their pupils. Methinks a simple name like ‘Tulip Garden’ was far simple and secular.

Most places in Kashmir still have ethnic names. There must be a couple of areas/roads where Mrs Gandhi’s name has already been used. I've nothing against the slain former PM but I'm not for overusing dead-names to the extend of boredom.

Kashmiris, historically, have not been too innovative in naming places. Everyone and his uncle – for example— calls the romantic stretch from Dal Gate to Centaur hotel, Boulevard road. Translated it means avenue road, which is wrong. It should be Boulevard. One word. The only fashionable places -- to my mind – are the more English sounding: Residency road, Lambert lane and Forest lane.

[Image: Cars going towards Residency road, Srinagar]

Across the Dal, the quick re-christening notwithstanding, the papers report that authorities are now edgy about the lack of expected visitors [local/non-local] to the garden. Any dignitary visiting Kashmir these days is swiftly taken to the garden and school children are encouraged [and charged] to visit the place. Since the life-span of tulips is short, the government wants to make most of it.

I once read of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Victorian poetess:
And tulips, children love to stretch
Their fingers down, to feel in each
Its beauty's sweet nearer.

April 2008
Srinagar Airport