The jokes going around today is that we are soon going to change of name of Chowmein to lachhas of some kind to boycott anything Chinese and Rogan Josh to whatever. Will our love for the noodles die? Or will our stomachs revolt if we get something with a different name. Lesser said the better.
The pleasure we get in changing names of places, streets and roads etc is something which I don’t understand. As far as my memory goes as a kid, I remember JULLUNDER becoming JALANDHAR. This was very prominent on its railway station as we were frequent travellers unlike frequent fliers in those days. Our summer or winter holidays used to start with a steel trunk, a big holdall, a basket full of food, a surahi, loads of comics and long waits at Jalandhar for our connecting train. We were excited to see this change of name. As the train from Kapurthala chugged in, I had my eyes fixed at the board of the station which used to be the first thing one saw. My curiosity did not end at that till I dragged my dad to that board. The engraving of the old name was still there. The old name was clearly visible under the fresh paint. I am sure the old engraved name still exists even today on all boards as they too are part of our heritage.
What changed with the name, was it the location of the station? Was it the train timings? No. The ticket window remained at the same place. The milk booth did not shift. The aloo poori stalls did not change their menus; the water taps did not start pouring coca cola. The “pappar wali rehri” still sold papar. The cleanliness of the stations remained pathetic even after change of name. For the local folk the pronunciation remained the same even if the spellings in English had changed. As far as Punjabi was concerned the spellings in gurmukhi didn’t change. The only people who worked overtime were the painters. I am sure this painter would not know the English alphabet nor would have understood why this change. His job was to paint, that’s it.
My name has its own derivatives and people have called me Neol, Nawal, Novel, Nole, Navel, Ellie, Ellias, Alice, Alish, Elle, Elsh uffffff. In my unit many called me Elli Singh as I spoke fluent Punjabi. Did my character change? Did it make any difference to my personality? I tried changing my name in the Voter card thrice now but somehow these fellows have to make a mistake by interchanging a vowel or a consonant. Thank God my address and date of birth is correct and they allow me to vote and I vote for my candidate. My political affiliations don’t change.
I hope you people know where Rajiv Gandhi Chowk is in Delhi. Of course it is Connaught place. The auto wala will fleece you if you use the new name and may take you to your destination via Kirby place. Bombay became Mumbai and people take offence to calling it with a B. Fountain became Hutatma Chowk, Kings Circle became Maheshwari Udyan, Zoo became Jija Mata Udyan and Marine drive is Netaji Subhash Chandra Marg. What do we all call them in our daily conversation is the point I make? VT still remains VT and so does Jacob’s Circle. Some change I must say.
I used to love the name CAWNPORE now rhymes with ear-pur. As a child I have many memories of this mill and its chimney on which this name used to be written as ELGIN mills. I remember my mother used to pick up a lot of those white Turkish towels which were sold in the open market at dirt cheap prices. I believe Jubbulpore was one of the first to be renamed in 1947. Cochin, Madras, Waltair, Mysore, Bangalore etc are all in front of us with changed names. Has life transformed there? Has the infrastructure transformed the way of life? Has the name change cleaned the place better? By changing the name does governance improve? Does unemployment reduce? Does illiteracy vanish? Does health care come to your doorstep? I think all of you know the answers.
I am convinced that all the politics that goes into just changing names if devoted to things that are constructive would serve a better cause. If you try to obliterate history, it doesn’t happen. Faith, religion, beliefs, sentiments even if they take the centre stage we should preserve our heritage. Slowly and steadily I see our “virasat” turning to ruins as in case of most of the palaces. Our forts are falling apart, our heritage buildings slowly decaying; our names are going into oblivion. If just by changing a name our destiny can change, nothing like it but if it is done only for cosmetics and the heck of it, then is it worth it, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis