Mumbai: Arbitrary change of suburban station names serves no purpose until history is delved into

If there is one railway station in Mumbai which deserves a rechristening, it is Sandhurst Road. It is named after William Mansfield, First Viscount of Sandhurst, who was the governor of Bombay between 1895 and 1900. If the poor man only knew how locals refer to the station named after him, he would turn in his grave. They corrupt it to Sandas Road, sandas being toilet!

Renaming Sandhurst Road is part of a wishlist that Maharashtra Transport Minister Diwakar Raote carried to New Delhi, seeking new names for a series of railway stations, including Mumbai Central station after philanthropist Jagannath Sunkersett. The others are: Grant Road to Gamdevi; Charni Road to Girgaum; Elphinstone Road to Prabhadevi; Cotton Green to Kalachowki; and Reay Road to Ghodapdeo.

The Charni Road station is Indian origin, and has nothing to do with the British. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Charni Road station is Indian origin, and has nothing to do with the British. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Sandhurst Road is a station serving both the main line and the harbour line of the Central Railway. Its proposed new name is Dongri. The proposal is meant to obliterate vestiges of the British rule and to adopt the closest Marathi name. Dongri serves that purpose. The intent is not to save the ignominy heaped for decades, by corrupting Sandhurst to Sandas.

If, after 70 years of achieving independence from the British, it is still revenge we have in mind to assert our Indian-ness, then the British name could have been retained and the locals encouraged to keep the tradition of using it the way they have been! But of course, before the Sena pounces on me, let me clarify that my suggestion was tongue-in-cheek.

There's even a Facebook page dedicated to Dongri railway station, but has nothing much except a few ordinary pictures and the station's location pinned on a Google map.

However, the logic behind some of the other proposed new names is not clear. Why should Charni Road be Girgaum when there is nothing British about Charni? It is very much an Indian word in origin and idea, named so because it contained land on which cattle would graze. Unlike now, there was cattle in Mumbai then.

When the Brits, it is said, started levying a fee on cattle brought to what is now Azad Maidan, the benevolent Jameshtjee Jeejeebhoy bought grazing land between Thakurdwar and the shore and allowed the cattle a free run. It is him who gifted the corpus for the JJ Group of Hospitals and the eminent Art school, Sir JJ School of Art. Why fiddle with it assuming it was christened after a British personality?

Cotton Green also has nothing to do with the name of any British personage whose memory was sought to be perpetuated by naming a station after him. At least as far as I know, there was nobody with such a moniker. It was all about cotton, a commodity much prized after the opium, and was located near a place which had green spaces. Unless, it is to be changed like Bombay was to Mumbai, just because the gora saheb gave the earlier name to a vibrant city.

Reay Road is named after Donald Mackay, the governor who preceded Sandhurst; Grant Road is after Robert Grant who had for decades held the same high office; and his predecessor John Elphinstone lent his name to a station they want to be renamed Prabhadevi. All very well, but it seemed near certain that if one was a governor, chances of a station being found to be named after was quite good.

Apparently there is some confusion about which name is British and which was not. The Indian Express has quoted Raote saying, "No reason should be demanded as to why the names of the stations must be changed. This is our country and our land, and names of the stations must be as per the culture of our country."

Raote may please check up on Charni Road and Cotton Green, because they are not British, only Indian, and the latter may be in English, but wasn't named after any Englishman. Just like Elphinstone is being named after something very local, Prabhadevi. They are place names which have a clear local un-English intent. It would do no harm if the list is trimmed.


Published Date: Mar 21, 2017 09:02 pm | Updated Date: Mar 21, 2017 09:02 pm


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