What’s in a (re)name?

With the passing of Prof John K Zachariah, principal of Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, it was the end of an era as far as that school and its counterpart, Bishop Cotton Girls’ School, were concerned. With Prof Zachariah’s demise, Bengaluru has seen the passing away of perhaps one of its most erudite and talented English teachers, which is sure to set many changes in motion.

Indeed, changes are required, and as one writer put it, change is the only constant. That is why, when the name of Bangalore was changed back to its original non-anglicised version of Bengaluru, Bengalureans were in a flurry. They rued, “We have got used to Bangalore, why change it back to Bengaluru?”

Yet Girija, my friend from Jaipur, was quick to point out, “In the case of a city’s name, a change would not be that innocuous. In hindsight, it does make a very viable difference.”

I told Girjia how Bengaluru was coined from a historical occurrence. “King Veera Ballala II was roaming in a forest, when he began feeling ravenously hungry. He stopped at a place where an old woman lived. She quelled his hunger by giving him some boiled beans. He was so grateful that he named the place “Benda Kalooru” or “city of boiled beans”. The name then changed from ‘Benda Kalooru’ to ‘Bengalooru’ and was then anglicised by the British to ‘Bangalore’”.

I told Girija, “Names do count and by now, we, in Bengaluru, plus the visitors, have got used to this name, but there are other changes to make in order to retain uniformity of nomenclature. Yes, Bombay has reverted to Mumbai; Madras to Chennai and Calcutta to Kolkata, but shouldn’t other anglicised names of places revert to their original forms too?”

Girija, backed by knowledge from working on her doctoral thesis, was quick to say, “In Bengaluru, which was a favourite hotspot for the British and all anglicised lifestyles, the name changing for uniformity will be endless, right from changing names of our towns (with anglicised names), like Frazer Town, Richmond Town, Cox Town, Cooke Town, etc. What argument should we use here?”

“I personally feel that changing all names of towns that recall British colonial rule is not feasible as somehow these towns reflect culture and heritage value of those times. Also, it would cause a pot-pourri of confusion and complications will be further confounded if we change all these names,” I rued.

Our friend, Nazu, gave a clever twist to the whole argument. “Yes, Bangalore’s name and that of other important districts (but not towns) should be changed. But the point here is, it is much more important that there is change in quality of life and not just a technical change in the name of the city. Thus, in Bengaluru, there should be change in infrastructure, transport services, electricity and water facilities, amelioration in service and validation in education, as per the late Prof John Zachariah. To me, name change by itself makes no difference. Didn’t William Shakespeare himself say, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’”

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What’s in a (re)name?

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