Forget the cynics. There’s so much in a name.
Bombay was so prosaic, Mumbai is so lyrical. Madras was heavy on the tongue, Chennai rolls off it so smoothly; Calcutta just had one ‘t’ too many, Kolkata carries no such unnecessary weight. Bangalore was so ‘phoren’ and Bengaluru sounds so grounded.
Now Mamata-di wants to call West Bengal by another name. As changing names go, this one was long overdue. Some had started calling the state Waste Bengal; some had thought too much into the work culture of the state to call it Rest Bengal and others were tempted to call it Bandh Bengal.
Even the Leftists, who made bandhsas much a part of everyday life as bureaucratic lethargy, and virtually turned so many areas of the state unproductive, are not averse to a new name. Losing power after 34 years of misrule, they would like to forget the past, name of the state included, and make a fresh beginning.
The thought appears to have a very mundane origin though: It’s the position of ‘W’ in the alphabet.
“Since the name of the state starts with a W, our representatives get to speak only at the end of any function when most of the audience has left. To do away with the problem, the chief minister has suggested the name be changed,” the state’s Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee said a couple of days ago.
The Left parties, for a change, are in agreement with Mamata‘s government. “There is no question of opposing the decision of this government. The proposal was mooted and initiated by the Left Front,” said CPM state secretary Biman Bose.
A genuine problem indeed! Imagine ‘Best Bengal’ instead of ‘West Bengal’. It would have sounded awful for a state for sure but would have solved this problem with the ‘W’ alphabetical order easily.
Now that the move is afoot, expect people to be creative and swing between the silly and the sublime. Some names have come up already. Best Bengal is one of them. According to a CNN-IBN report, some have suggested, in jest of course, Mamtakhand, Mamatapur and Mamataland. One person has come with ‘Bekaristan’ (Land of the unemployed) and another with ‘Dadaland’. The latter needs no elaboration. West Bengal’s association with Sourav Ganguly is well-known.
The state government doesn’t want to hurry things since it is a sensitive issue. But rest assured, the brilliant collective Bengali genius will certainly come up with something nice – a name that would encapsulate the greatness of the state and its rich traditions.
The business of changing names is rather funny. While there’s something highly aspirational about the exercise, the ground realities have this obstinate habit of not responding to popular-political aspirations. Bombay, for example, continues to go under water every monsoon despite being Mumbai. Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus continues with its dreary, lost look of the old despite not being Victoria Terminus anymore. The change of identity here, according to some, was the smoothest sex change operation in the world. Well, the change in gender has not meant much, at least for the commuters.
Old habits die hard. Bangalore’s traffic troubles seem to have shifted to Bengaluru rather effortlessly. Odisha continues the tradition of governance mess and mining scams despite changing over from Orissa.
Mamata Banerjee must take care. The renaming of West Bengal should be more than a symbolic exercise. It should be backed by substantive changes. Bengal needs to re-discover its glory days.
The name change may have unintended consequences, though, especially for that other iron lady, Mayawati. When Bengal moves out of the bottom of the alphabetical league, it will leave Uttar Pradesh holding that dubious position. Surely, Maya is not going to like that.