Fiona Fernandez: Game of names

By  Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai | Posted  10-Jul-2017

What happens if in 50 years, another set of politicians decide to phase out the legacy of their predecessors by renaming the city as per their ideology?

"What's in a name?" someone had once famously proclaimed. Clearly a lot. Especially if you happen to be a Bombayite or a Bombaywallah…oops, Mumbaikar. And to be in sync with changing times, will hell break lose if you call yourself an Elphinstonian instead of a Prabhadevian? Get the drift, right?

We're back in the grips of the name-changing game. Memories of the circus that preceded the renaming of the city in the 1990s come to mind. Once again, our gods in the BMC building have kept aside the city's potholed roads, traffic logjams, stretched train and road transport facilities, blocked nullahs, and other pressing civic issues to invest good money and effort into this exercise. We have been witnessing the renaming of most of the city's colonial reminders with railway stations bearing the brunt of the onslaught at the moment. All of this, of course, at the cost of public money. From letterheads to nameplates, road and rail signage, we can't imagine the expenditure allocation. It might possibly not end with railway stations. To borrow a few names from a post by a city-loving friend, of the eventualities: Girijaghar ka dwar (Churchgate), Fort (Kila) and Colaba Causeway (Kolabhat ki Pakki Sadak) could well be next on the long list. A few weeks back, a local corporator had gone a step further, and suggested renaming the Gateway of India to Bharat Dwar. We have a simple question to ask – Doesn't it translate to India Gate in New Delhi?

The absurdities in many such cases can be frustrating and more importantly, disturbing for keepers of the city's heritage. As one of them commented recently, "In a rushed attempt to destroy colonial leftovers and earn brownie points, our history is been repeatedly tampered with, without making an attempt to gauge its relevance. Why not use the funds to improve infrastructure and create a world-class local railway system? Have you seen the condition of compartments? How does renaming a railway station improve the lives of the local train commuter?" Our thoughts exactly.

And what if, two, three or five decades from now, another set of agendas pushed by ideologically different lawmakers come to the fore? Will Prabhadevi, Ghodapdeo and Nana Chowk railway stations be renamed to something else?
Midway through this column, we learnt that the entire city of Ahmedabad had been inducted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What a matter of immense pride for the city! The World Heritage Committee's reasons for inscribing the city in the prestigious list – the synergy and diversity of its multiple rulers and naturally, its city-scape – its sultanate mosques and tombs, walls, pols (traditional homes), Jain and Hindu temples, puras (gated streets), all of which have been retained and restored to their original grandeur, thanks to years of toil by conservationists, historians and sensible lawmakers who pushed for the UNESCO tag.

Will we see the end of this mindless juggernaut in our beloved city? Common sense is the need of the hour. Only time will tell if it prevails or we are reduced to a city with no name.

mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com