Thursday, January 1, 2015

By Another Name





Elections come marinated with hope. And promises. Sometimes, rather irrationally, they also come with a renaming spree. During a discussion in Parliament on the National Capital of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, Venkiah Naidu, our urban development minister said, “Sometimes I feel, instead of Delhi, it should have been either Indraprastha or Hastinapur. Some such historical name should have been more appropriate for this city.” We do not know if this idea is a consequence of the voter obsession phase prior to Delhi elections or a part of some arcane agenda, but what we know is that renaming cities is unlikely to yield positive political dividends. Who else but Mayawati can tell, albeit privately, that cosmetic changes do little to sway the voters. Regardless, our leaders continue to look at cities through an electoral prism. Moreover playing politics with culture and heritage is a dangerous game. And yet, it seems to be a favorite game being played around.

If Shanghai is a girl, and London a man puffing his pipe, Delhi is a feisty woman who goes to work despite being harassed, leered, molested or attacked with acid. A symbol of pluralistic society, she needs safety and avenues for growth to fulfill her global aspirations. Cosmetic changes without any rhyme or reason mean nothing for a city that by any other name shall continue to appear culturally resplendent and contemporary at the same time.

According to a book, ‘Ancient Delhi’, the earliest reference of ‘Dhillika’ as a location comes from a 12th century inscription from Bijolia, Rajasthan. In Prithviraj Raso, ‘Dhilli’ is associated with a Rajput king and an iron pillar in Mehrauli. This 12th century legend suggests that modern Delhi was named after the loose base of this pillar. There are other unverified legends relating to rulers of Delhi and its surrounding regions. Given that different cities of Delhi were raised by different rulers, Delhi could well have been called Tughlaquabad Ferozabad, Dinpanah, Shahjahanabad, or Georgabad by the British after King George V. And yet, Delhi remained Delhi - a pulsating conglomeration, ready to embrace everyone.

We moved from Bombay to Mumbai, from Madras to Chennai, from Puna to Pune or from Calcutta to Kolkatta, but all the while the problems facing our cities remain the same. At a time when Delhi cries for women’s safety with a rape every four hours and a molestation every two hours, at a time when Delhi is grappling with a transport mess, polluted air, migrant issues and affordable housing, among other things - a name change should have been the last thing on the mind of our urban development minister. Agreed, as of now, a name change is merely a suggestion, but once a cabinet minister has planted a seed, the fringe elements could ensure that the seed is watered enough to sprout saffron shoots. It is likely that after renaming festivals and cities, the renaming of other prominent landmarks will follow.

Since we are moving towards absurdity at such an amazing speed, I won’t be surprised if Delhi is called Hastinapur during the BJP rule, Indirapur or Nehrunagar during the Congress rule and Chhatrapati Shahuji Nagar during the BSP rule. And if the Yadav troika comes to power, they can happily call the capital city - Yadavpur or Yadavprashtha
In spirit, Delhi by any other name will remain Delhi. I have no political axe to grind but the question that begs to be asked is: Is this what Delhi needs right now, a name change?

29 comments:

  1. You have hit it on THE head Alka.I wish our politicians too,could see the sense in what you have said.Couldn't V.N have given some thought to other issues which are staring in the face of Delhiites?And as you have so rightly pointed out,such cosmetic changes do little to win favor.What do they achieve?

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  2. Let's not look at it in such a narrow perspective.
    Can anyone justify as to should we continue to have a road in DILLI named after Aurangzeb? Why Aurangabad? Did he not go on killing HINDUS ruthlessly?
    Problem is not about re naming......let us understand,the problem is our Colonial mind set..
    The day we get our our complexes,we will stop asking such questions and stop questioning demand for renaming.

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    1. I am uncomfortable when religion is dragged into everything. I am also unable to understand how Bengaluru or Pune are better cities compared to Bangalore or Puna.Though I am against a colonial mindset, it is unlikely that Delhi will become better if it is called Hastinapur.
      Another new regime, whenever that happens, will again embark on a renaming spree. To me, this looks like a case of misplaced priority. We can happily agree to disagree this time. :)

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  3. it is such a shame that our leaders spend so much time and effort on stupid useless things like changing a name of a city, I fail to understand what good has it done to change a name of a city.

    it is a shame that although we call Gandhi the father of the nation yet in all these leaders no one understand what the gandhian philosophy was ... although i hate the man myself and i blame him for all this mess , yet I must say he did try to bring brotherhood between all caste creed and religion.. and yet today's leader is all set to bring greater divide..

    BUT again sadly our mindset is such that we get happy and the name change is nothing but a gimmick to win elections and who ever does it is bound to win the election ..

    I think a lot of cities need a name change in punjab too :) maybe i need to enter politics and win votes by changing a few names

    Bikram's

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    1. There is no end to it Bikram. After cities, it will be villages, landmarks....unfortunately we have become very intolerant.
      Wish you a very happy new year.

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  4. Seriously, this is so disheartening to see all this name-changing going on. I mean how on earth a name change can change any ground reality except for lot of paper work? I loved this one Alka.

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    1. Good to see you back Jas. Missed your presence. Truly.

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  5. Agree with you Alka. These politicians need an agenda that's all...whether it is logical, relevant or worthy doesn't matter. We should be proud of our heritage. India was sought and plundered from the foreigners, now her own sons are plundering her. What's in a name? Rose by another other name would still be a rose ;)

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    1. Well said Janaki. There is no end to it. Plus we can't waste our time and energy on cosmetic changes.

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  6. Your post reminded me of Shakespeare, "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I wish our politicians focus on other important issues and not on these "cosmetic" changes! Well-written! Happy New Year :-)

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    1. Thank you Divya. Wish you a happy new year too.

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  7. 2015 has only begun and we already have a quote that is going to last much more beyond the year: "If Shanghai is a girl, and London a man puffing his pipe, Delhi is a feisty woman who goes to work despite being harassed, leered, molested or attacked with acid. You have put so much in so few words. Thanks for the refresher on Delhi.

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    1. Good to see you here. Wish you and your family a happy new year.

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  8. I agree with you totally. This renaming spree is mindless, a waste of money and perhaps a way to pander to 'local' sensibilities. It changes nothing for its inhabitants or even outsiders.

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    1. Living in Bangalore you know it Rachna. Misplaced priorities.

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  9. Ah...the renaming issue. As Rachna and you said, misplaced priorities. On a different note, trust you to drive the point home, Alka.
    And so much truth in this phrase of yours, "If Shanghai is a girl, and London a man puffing his pipe, Delhi is a feisty woman who goes to work despite being harassed, leered, molested or attacked with acid"

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    1. I was shocked to read the paper yesterday Sid where they say that Delhi reports a rape very four hours. Planning Commission is already called NITI Ayog and God knows how many cosmetic changes are in store. It would be better if the ground realities change along with the name.

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  10. Come on Alka :) About the only change that the powers-that-be feel capable of bringing about and you object to that too? :)

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  11. Why do we frown on everything that's 'colonial'? For all you know, if India had never been colonised, we might have still had the feudal system and the upper classes oppressing the poor. The west has given the world literaure, democracy, technology, the concept of liberty justice and fraternity, progress in medicine, gender equality, and much more.

    We can either appreciate the west, and try to imbibe their positives, and maybe even try to race ahead of them, or just sit back, rename India as Bharat, and wait for the Gods to shine down on us.

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    1. You said it. Thank you for saying it for me.

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  12. Look a the state of our leaders. At a time when we have more pressing issues to be taken care of, people are speaking of things which wouldn't make a difference at all! Sigh. Hope they dont go back to calling India as Bharat (even in English)

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    1. I'm actually expecting something silly on republic day

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    2. Quite possible, unless they get busy with Obama and don't have time for stupid symbolism. Fingers crossed.

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  13. The shortest cut to leave your mark on a city - rename it to suit your Party's ideology. I still feel Bombay lost its cosmopolitan spirit the moment they renamed it Mumbai.

    Lovely article, Alka,

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    1. Thanks Purba. I am bracing myself to travel by Hastinapur Metro and visit Indraprashtha Zoo.

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  14. Name change is a sign of misplaced priorities. City names may be changed, but the problems remain the same. Every government's ideology should be better amenities, women and child safety, better transportation etc and not name changes. I loved the way you started this post "Elections come marinated with hope."

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