What’s in a Name?


Heard this joke on names of cities being changed?
An old guy who has never stepped out of St. Petersburg is talking to a friend.
The friend asks him, “Where were you born?”
“St. Petersburg”
“Where did you study?”
“Oh! So where did you work?”
“Hmmm, now you are retired, where are you spending your retirement?”
“St. Petersburg”
Pre and Post Soviet Union, life has gone a full circle.
There are a number of reasons for change of name of a geographical area, it could be political, remember Rhodesia? Yes the same Rhodesia where Doris Lessing grew up and is now called Zimbabwe. And there was Saigon which became Ho Chi Min City; and Burma which resurfaced as Myanmar, along with its capital Rangoon adopting the name Yangon.
Geographical borders of nations don’t remain the same always; a change in the borders may join two nations like Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar) or divide a nation into two like Czechoslovakia ( Czech and Slovakia). Notice the changes in nomenclature that ensue.
Regional pride and anti-colonial sentiment corrected Ceylon to Srilanka and Madras to Chennai, not to forget Mumbai and Kolkota in India. New Delhi, the capital of India is the only spelling that escaped so far but some guys want it to be Indraprastha or Dilli at least…Among other name-change-games in India, been to Karnavati? You haven’t? You must definitely have heard of Anand Bhavan there…yes folks its Ahmedabad in a future avatar…and Lakshmanpuri is the name proposed for Lucknow…look at Dhaka and Beijing? These were named so to adhere to the correct pronunciation of the name of the cities. I had the idea for quite a long time that Peking and Beijing are two different cities…well it isn’t…its just old wine in a new bottle…
Down south in India Vasco de Gama won’t find his old Calicut (yeah the same place which gave Calico clothing its name) again if he sails in now…its Kozhikode now, the Queen of Arabian Sea, Cochin, has dropped its n and fashioned its C into a K…say ‘Kochi’, that’s how we have been saying for centuries. As for Thiruvananthapuram, … (what a mouthful for the white man’s version called Trivandrum the city that’s been in focus the last one month for the trillion dollar worth of temple treasures) even we Trivandrumites want it changed to Ananthapuri…its what the name actually means…the city of Anantha…the divine serpent…I forgot Pondicherry and Poona…they call it Pudusseri and Pune now…Pondi perhaps is more familiar to the Next Gen.
Perhaps the one Indian city that got into international books was Bangalore. In fact, the usage ‘being Bangalored’ has replaced the word outsourced in English. Now the name, an internationally recognized brand is to be ‘Bengalooru’. There are of course hundreds of opinions on the name change. But the reasons remain behind the priority of daily life. What is wrong with both the names being carried along in parallel? The pride that bubbles when one speaks of native Bengalooru need not beat the proud IT techie adopted Bangalorean. Both can be brands, like Kolkota or Dilli…
I plan to do a detailed tour of the North East of India in the coming year; and Sohra is the top priority on my must-visit list! Don’t know the place? Hey! It’s famous…It’s a top tourist destination. It also has the highest volume of rainfall ever…Yeah I am talking about Chirapunji…it’s only that it will be called Sohra by the time I reach there…
I just hope that no fanatics will refuse to deliver postal and courier articles when you address them in the old format…if you do happen to work in the postal department, just be patient and think some people don’t know any better…I do the same when you write to me at Trivandrum…I know I am at Thiruvananthapuram…

Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at yashovathi@gmail.com

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