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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reclaim ‘Bombay’ and ‘Bangalore’

On the last day of the first semester of our last year in college [:D it was deliberate] on Wednesday many of us went to watch Wake Up S!d. People came out of the theatre with mixed opinions. I loved it [4/5] – must go and watch the movie. Yet a movie review was not quite what prompted me to write this. Throughout the movie, the characters referred to the now renamed city of Mumbai by its earlier name, Bombay [as also was Bengaluru called Bangalore & Kolkata as Calcutta, but nobody got bullied or harassed anybody over it, so my rant ain’t going to include it – okay Bangalore it includes, but only in context of Bombay].

Quite expectedly, the SS troops of Maharashtra Nazi Sena [MNS] resorted to what they do best [& for that matter the only thing they’ve done so far ever since they broke away from an equally thuggish political outfit, the Shiv Sena (SS), an organisation that has wantonly abused & misused the name of one of the greatest warriors India has produced, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, to further their own selfish & ulterior cause of narrow-minded, anti-national ghettoism] – bully & threaten the makers of the movie into submission to extract an apology from them for causing immense harm to the Marashtrian Asmita by such a dastardly act of Geographical & Cartographical blasphemy. Not surprisingly the film maker cowered & bowed down before the language warlords.

Now I don’t suppose I’d be wrong when I say that anybody who has heard of India, especially the post-liberalisation India, is also most aware of the cities of Bombay [now Mumbai] & Bangalore [now Bengaluru]. The former has been the economic & commercial hub of our country since the pre-independence times while the latter has made a name for itself due to the fast-growing cutting-edge Technology industries that are being set up and flourishing in that city. The collective sweat, toil & efforts easily amounting to more than multi-trillion man hours of hard work & endeavor has gone into turning the names of these two cities into two of the proud symbols of our nation [okay, numbers of magnitude exceeding trillions are beyond my comprehension, hence multi-trillions even though the actual number may be a multi-greater-than-trillion number]. They symbolize things that are right with India and the promise India holds out for the future. The amount of economic transaction that is carried out in the city of Bombay has rightfully earned it the title of the Economic capital of India & an important business city of the world. You even have the President of the United States of America refer to the city of Bangalore in his speeches on more than one occasion [though in a manner reflecting their insecurity] – such is the brand & recall value of the names of these two cities.

However with one quick swoosh of the pen over an administrative authorization letter, the prevailing governments Maharashtra & Karnataka of their time authorized changing the name of these two places to Mumbai & Bengaluru. They cited popular public sentiment & demand as the reason behind this renaming [while having taken no referendum to back this argument]. However such has been the impact these names have had on us & values we associate with it [not to mention, we’ve grown up referring to these places by its defunct names], that majority of us continue to refer to it by its old name.

Thanks to petty regionalism bordering on anti-national sentiments, these names no longer have any official significance & have long been chucked away into the deep abyss of our administrative thrash cans. Yet these two names continue to hold immense sway over our collective psyche (& memory) and more importantly individuals from other countries that have business interest in our booming economy continue to associate the place by its old name - an outcome of Brand Bombay & Bangalore.

Indians referring to these places by their old names is simply a matter-of-fact expression of love, admiration & maybe growing-up nostalgia they may have for the place & the symbol rather than any hatred or disrespect they may hold against it or its new name – a fact lost on these lead-headed political hoodlums.

Can you ever imagine Google not renewing the domain name? Well we in India have indeed done something similar with Bombay & Bangalore.

However this loss can just as easily be turned into an opportunity [okay, not so easily maybe at last literally, but it is possible]. One state’s loss can become another’s gain. Just as Bombay & Bangalore were chucked away by their respective states, so can other states rename places in its state to Bombay & Bangalore. Just as quickly the former states chose to forgo the benefits of “Brand Bombay” & “Brand Bangalore”, so can other development-minded states lap up the benefits these names have to offer with absolutely no opposition from its previous benefactors.

Simply renaming a place to one that has enjoyed immense success would, by no means, guarantee equivalent success to the others – I neither hold nor preach [=rant] any such illusions. The collective toil & hard-work that went into the earlier places also needs to be put in these places. However these names would act, rightly described in military parlance, as force-multipliers in the governments’ efforts to develop a particular place.

Some small but significant factors that influence decisions to get involved in the affairs/investment/development of a place,

  • level of comfort one experiences on hearing or using the name of that place
  • its recall value
  • manner in which the place has been branded
  • ease of pronouncing it [Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan’s name being shortened to Venki]
  • impression or image that flashes in ones mind when one hears the name

All these factors are more than satisfied by Bombay & Bangalore & in pursuing investment for development in places with these names, the Government in question should find it that much more easier in evoking a favorable response, especially from foreign investors, who are used to hearing these names & the positive reaction it would invoke in them.

Such act of reverting to the older name in order to continue enjoying the benefits of the established brand name & advantages is not without precedence – it has been done. Renaming an institute & renaming a city are by no means analogous, even if for the same intention. However it does offer a rough pathway that justifies such a renaming – an extrapolation of the earlier act of the institution in its efforts to maximize progress & development.

However, naysayers might say, among other things, that the people of a place would resent such renaming of their place with names not quite part of their local ways. A valid argument, I agree. It therefore becomes the collective responsibility of the local Government administrative officials to strive to convince the people & take them on board, assuring them of the associated benefits before going with the renaming. Once on board, the administration should go forward with the renaming & start working aggressively in promoting that place as a destination that offers all the benefits & advantages offered by the place the name was earlier associated with.

As stated earlier merely renaming a place Bombay & Bangalore will never guarantee success & development enjoyed by these places. Hard work & vision is vital & imperative. However every big/small advantage that one can seek must be grabbed & utilized effectively & efficiently pushing the boundaries of development. In our endeavor to become a developed nation, we must grab every opportunity & opening that comes our way, shortening the time to reach a certain level of state of development or reaching a stage of development higher than the one that had been set for a given time frame at the conceptual stage.

I am sure that with the talented & dedicated people that are its residents, Mumbai & Bengaluru too would become the high-valued, emulation-worthy  brand name that Bombay & Bangalore are. However one must not forget & disregard the efforts gone into adding value & brand to the names of Bombay & Bangalore – it has been the collective labor of love of millions of people who called those two cities home & were proud to be associated with it [both the name & place]. May some state rename places after these two amazing names & bestow upon the names the honor & dignity they deserve.