What’s in a rename?

Sandip Roy | Updated on December 28, 2018 Published on December 28, 2018

Invasion of history: Municipal workers redo a signboard ahead of the renaming of Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road in September 2015   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

A Bengali recommends himself highly for the most important job in Lutyens’s town — changing the name of the development game aka Acche Din

Respected Prime Minister sir,

Being given to understand that there is a vacancy in the newly created position in your cabinet I would like to apply my candidature for the same forthwith. I am still awaiting response to my application for the position of Special Minister (Independent Charge) for Building Giant Statues. I would humbly remind you again that my late father was civil engineer with reputed company set up by Englishmen.

However, currently I request your good self to kindly give me an opportunity to prove my capability in bringing Acche Din to Bharat through the Pradhan Mantri Re-Naamkaran Yojana. I can assure you that my qualifications and core competencies are an excellent match for this position.

First of all, sir, I am a Bengali. Bengalis are natural renamers since birth. We are the original twice born. We are given a name at birth like Pranab or Sharmila, then another name like Poltu or Bhootoo or Moonmoon. Myself has a given name, nickname from mother’s side, nickname from father’s side, nickname only dead grandmother (when alive) called me, nickname from schoolfriends and special nickname known just to other regulars at Tripty Bar. All this is to say I understand how renaming works and its important role in building character. It also leads to conversations like “Oh you live in Silicon Valley and work for IBM? So does my husband’s first cousin’s son-in-law. You must get in touch with him. But what is his name? We call him Bibloo but what is his real name. Ogo, what is Pintu’s daughter’s husband’s name? Arre, the one near San Francisco. Yes, Bibloo I know but his good name. I think they are Sarkar or perhaps Basu. But we only know them as Bibloo and Mamoni, you see. Lovely couple.”

Strange angle: Bengalis take renaming very seriously. Suchitra Sen lent her name to a park, now called Suchitra Sen Square, even though it is a triangle


Sir, we Bengali can name circles around anyone. Bengalis, as you can see, take renaming very seriously. We took a road named Burial Road and called it Park Street, then we renamed it Mother Teresa Sarani. Recently, we have taken a park and renamed it Suchitra Sen Square even though it is a triangle. When Suchitra Sen died, we also renamed Ballygunge Circular Road after her. But we had forgotten that in earlier round of renaming we had already named it Pramathesh Barua Sarani after different good-looking Bengali silver screen person. Now we have divided the road — 350m for Mr Barua, 2 km for Mrs Sen because she is more famous to current generation and women empowerment. You will be glad to know that we are also more ambitious about setting benchmarks for ourselves while renaming. We took Lee Road and made it not Satyajit Ray Sarani or Road, but Satyajit Ray Dharani or World. Why stop at mere road when you can have the whole world as Subhas Bose could have said?

I think, sir, the renaming project is a most vital component of Acche Din. It is about getting our national honour back. Esteemed playwright Shakespeare said “What’s in a name?” The answer is everything. That is why only in India we say, “What is your good name?”

Ever since Race Course Road became Lok Kalyan Marg I knew the country was on the right track. When Allahabad became Prayagraj and Faizabad became Ayodhya I finally felt lighter. Literally. I did not even need to take Isabgol fibre supplement that night. This as you know is the highest compliment a Bengali can offer you. If Ahmedabad becomes Karnavati and Aurangabad becomes Sambhajinagar, my motions will surely be so regular I may be able to stop buying Isabgol.

Deshdrohi types at my local tea shop still say what about toilets, what about jobs, what about farmer prices. But I remind them that first comes the name, then everything else. As in Bengali proverb we say kaana meyer naam podmolochan, why one-eyed girl being named lotus eyed. That is Indian tragedy. We have been one-eyed nation, blinded to our own history and we have not even understood it. Now under your guidance, lotus has bloomed and we are finally lotus eyed. Dr Shashi Tharoor has called your administration a name-changer instead of a game-changer. I would like to say Dr Tharoor, sometimes changing name is changing the game only.

Sir, you must not be distracted by such small-small things. Urgent work needs to be done. So many cities are still waiting to see the light — Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Muzaffarnagar. Instead of sending Mr Shaktikanta Das to head Reserve Bank of India (whose name requires immediate sanskarification anyway) perhaps you should send him as top level bureaucrat to Ministry of Renaming Things (MRT). His degree in history would actually be useful here. He could be appointed as head of a task force to look into this very important project of sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas.

The task force should divide all renaming project into categories and grade them on levels of urgency. For example,

Category 1 — Things named after Nehru/Gandhis. Urgency level — Critical.

A second task force might be needed to do comprehensive census of everything named after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and other minor Nehru/Gandhis. I have read 450 schemes, projects and buildings are named after Nehru/Gandhis including 15 national parks and 28 sports tournaments but that does not include things named after Friends of Nehru/Gandhis.

Category 2 — Things named by Muslim invaders. Urgency level — Critical.

Real deal: Will Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath-ji, too, revert to his original name, Ajay Mohan Bisht?   -  PTI


Muslim invaders put their names everywhere. With Allahabad and Faizabad, important historical re-education is underway but as Ahmedabad and Aurangabad remind us every day, so much remains to be done. First priority here should be given to Muslim invaders from Qutab-ud-din Aibak to Bahadur Shah Zafar. And Jinnah. Second priority should be given to modern-day Muslims. A small special reserve category can be maintained for good Muslims like APJ Abdul Kalam Azad.

Category 3 — Things named after deshdrohis. Urgency level — High.

Unfortunately due to 70 years of negligence many deshdrohis have infiltrated all levels of Bharat and many things are named after them. A careful and high level study must be done to identify such deshdrohi types, rebellious poets, Communist leaders. Careful eye must be kept out for things named after undesirable foreigners like Lenin and Marx.

Category 4 — Things named after English lords and ladies. Urgency level — Medium.

Much good work has already commenced in this area. Many English names have been replaced by freedom fighters. Citizen sensitisation is still needed. Some ordinary Kolkatans are still calling their business area Dalhousie instead of Benoy Badal Dinesh Bag. This must become a fineable offence under the MRT. Some pockets can retain English names to encourage Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-type nostalgia tourism.

Category 5 — Things named after shapes, landmarks, inanimate objects. Urgency level — Low.

This includes streets such as Circular Road, Lake Avenue, Lake Terrace, Park Avenue, Ring Road. These are easy to rename because lakes, parks, rings have no political constituency. No award-wapsihappens on their behalf. For that same reason there is no fun in renaming them. These names can be reserved for “good Muslims”. (See Category 2).

Dear Sir, until this point the renaming project has proceeded nationally only in fits and starts. A small sample study I have undertaken, at my own expense, has revealed that different departments and administrations have renamed things for a variety of reasons some of which I enumerate below for your kind perusal

DeAnglicisation — Waltair to Visakhapatnam

Dreaming of Golden Chidiya Past — Gurgaon to Gurugram

Back to Roots — Madras to Chennai

Local Pride — Bombay to Mumbai

Local Pronunciation — Cawnpore to Kanpur

Spelling Test — Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram

To Annoy Americans — Harrington Street (housing American consulate) to Ho Chi Minh Sarani

To Honour Dead People — Like Priyanka Chopra’s father.

While all these missions are laudable, I believe that just like you dream of joining all our rivers in one great mainstream, under MRT we should also focus all these different missions into one clear objective. The goal of all re-naamkaran should be to remind Indians of the greatness of India’s golden past when we had invented everything from cloning to Internet. I propose that Dinanath Batra-ji be appointed honorary advisor to the ministry in this noble mission. I also propose that dynamic Tripura chief minister, Biplab Kumar Deb, be appointed brand ambassador for this mission. Since our Bollywood industry is filled with people who have changed names they can be enlisted to do ads and films to educate people about the new names much in the manner Amitabh Bachchan sir has done such an excellent job in encouraging us to get sauchalayas and make Bharat swachh.

However I always believe change must come from the top. We must lead by example. Since you are the master of masterstrokes I have one humble suggestion for you. On the day this ministry takes office please invite honourable CM Yogi Adityanath-ji to also go back to his original name Ajay Mohan Bisht, the same way the cities in his great state are returning to their original glory. As Gandhiji, father of the nation, said we must be the name change we want to see in the world.

Please revert back at the soonest. I await anxiously for your reply so that I can serve my country. I would like to assure you that I will leave no stone unturned or un-renamed by the end of my tenure.

Vande Mataram,

A Deshbhakt Babumoshai

Sandip Roy, the author of Don’t Let Him Know, is based in Kolkata

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Published on December 28, 2018
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