Game Of The Name

Because it is a myth, silly boy!

The event was a meeting of the town council to select a new name for their town where the “silly boy”, one of the younger prticipants, had been chastised for asking a logical question. At important events logical questions have only one logical response, round chastisement of the “asker”.

A new name for the town had become a necessity after it was realised that there was no earthly reason to change it.

Tempers at the council meeting had been frayed as finding a suitable name had been an uphill task. Council members had read and re-read all known epics, and some unknown ones as well, to locate a suitable name. The elders knew that if the name did not emerge from a myth, there was no way it would be recognised as a historical fact by the central government.

Not finding a name to their liking, the town council had finally decided to invent a name. And not wishing to leave a job only half done, they had also commissioned a set of popular writers to conjure up a new epic, flowing with the valour and wisdom of the ancestors of the current ruling dispensation so that the text could soon be recognised as historical fact.

There was no time to lose. Who was to say that the criteria for granting “Smart” status to a city would not be the number of times the city had changed its name without reason. Or its name being drawn from a popular myth.

It was under these extraordinary circumstances the “silly boy” had displayed the effrontery of asking for the logic behind the selection of the new name, and had been roundly chastised.

The floodgates had opened on 12th April, when the Haryana government took the decision of renaming Gurgaon to Gurugram.

The last couple of decades have sped past as our leaders have methodically gone about the task of uplifting our collective esteem by changing colonial-era names to, well, non-colonial-era names. Time flies when one is having fun.

But, as Bombay made way for Mumbai, Bangalore for Bengaluru, Calcutta for Kolkata and Madras for Chennai, there was an increasing sense of disquiet in the common man.

Would the good times soon come to an end? Are we running out of colonial-era names to change? Would we have to go back to the days when political leaders had to at least try to govern instead of changing names? What would they do once these names had been changed?

But we need not have worried.

In corporate circles they say a capable employee will always deliver value to the organisation.

So it is with able politicians, as has been my learning these past few weeks. Elect a capable leader and leave the worrying to him. He will always deliver value.

As we have perhaps seen in the case of great corporations, each business has evolved from a human need. But once that need has been satisfied, they have kept on creating unneeded needs and the common man has kept responding, by desperately needing those unneeded needs, and buying.

So is the case with the government of Haryana, that has found ways of delivering value, as is expected of able governments working for the welfare of the common man. If changing of colonial-era names is done, what stops us from changing non-colonial-era names to, well, different non-colonial-era names? Which other state government had the foresight to offer this welfare scheme to the common man of their state? Separates the men from the boys, doesn’t it?

And it is no ordinary change. It is a change dripping with historical significance. Because it is based on a mythological fact. In Mahabharat, one of the great Hindu epics, Yudhishtir, the eldest of the Pandav princes, had gifted this site to their teacher, Guru Dronacharya. Hence its original name was Gurugram, which, translated, means Village of the Teacher, to which it has been rightfully restored. We know this since it is a mythological fact. Case closed.

Delving a little deeper into the story, sorry historical fact, Guru Dronacharya was the one who refused martial arts education to Eklavya, a child of low birth. The guru who, a few years later, astounded by the prowess of the child who he had once refused to teach, asks for his thumb as guru-dakshina (offering for the teacher) so that he could never compete with the princes he was instructing. How was the guru to know that democratic and fair winds would be blowing in the 21st century, calling upon all human beings to be treated equal. How could he have envisaged that? Hence it is important that we name it after the guru and not after Eklavya.

The sigh of relief across the nation is palpable. Yes we can. We can change the names of places. Whether colonial or non-colonial.

It follows, therefore, that we will be able to dodge nuclear missiles and hydrogen bombs from hostile states.

Bareilley to Barasat and Mandu to Meerut, each self-respecting village, taluka and town is voraciously reading up historical myths to find a suitable name that will lead them to everlasting happiness. They don’t want to be left behind.

The Haryana government, it appears, even after taking this momentous decision, was humble enough to acknowledge the role the common man has played. “This has been done because of a demand from the people”, they have graciously acknowledged.

Now we know why potholes in roads have not been filled. Why electricity supply is erratic. Why there is no street lighting. Why loudspeakers are allowed to operate beyond 10 PM at night. Simply because there has been no demand from people. What other reason can there be?

But this humble acknowledgment has confused the common man. If it was a demand from the people, how many were killed and how many billions worth of property destroyed, they have demanded to know. After all, the last demand from the people in the state was for reservation by the Jat community a couple of months back in which several were killed and property worth billions destroyed, and rape allegations pertaining to which are still being investigated. When did this, the name-change, demand come from the people?

The government has clarified that for a demand from the people to be accepted by the government, it needs to be made on the night preceding the night of the full moon, at a time that is neither prior to 7 PM nor later than 8 PM, on a day when an earthquake of an intensity of at least 6.5 on the Richter scale has struck with an epicentre that is not more than a thousand miles away, the Chief Minister is wearing a pink kurta and had consumed three idlis for breakfast alongwith cold milk, and within 24 hours of the 75-year old Governor having run 100 metres in under 10 seconds.

If the above conditions are not met, then, to be successful, the demand from the people, whether made or not, will be for an ideology based decision the government has been dying to take.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, argued Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But that was her opinion. We have ours.

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24 thoughts on “Game Of The Name

  1. In myth, folklore and religion, here in the West, is the idea that each thing in creation has its “true name” and to know that true name is to have power over whatever holds that name. So there were taboos about speaking the name of God in Judaism, for example, and fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin. Philosophers have perennially concerned themselves with the question of naming, and whether there are natural names or only conventional ones. To give something a name is also to take power over it. I don’t know if Mumbai is the true name of Bombay, but the change certainly had something to do with a power move. I wonder what the true name of Gurgaon is…..

  2. But since the authorities changed the city name from Gurgaon to Gurugram, there are no longer any potholes or electrical service interruptions, or any municipal problems in Gurgaon.

    • They learn fast. The condition of roads typically worsens in the monsoons. There has always been a round of road repairing just before and road relaying just after the monsoons, with a lot of complaints in between. A couple of years back the roads were dug up and relaying started just as the monsoon rains broke. If there are no roads, how can there be any potholes? And complaints? The same concept now applied to Gurgaon.

  3. If Australia ever decided to get rid of colonial ie British, names what would we do with Melbourne, Sydney, Victoria, Queensland and all the rest of ’em.
    We would end up with more Yackandanda, Wooloomooloo, Wagga wagga, Vite vite et al.
    Wooden that be fun.

    • Ha ha! That could be funny. But, to the unfamiliar ear, would Chennai and Bengaluru not sound funny too, at least the first few times? The funny thing would be to get rid of the British names and find the “original” name for things that did not even exist before the British.

  4. Of course, there are entire countries that change their names, or the more popular–keep the name but change what it means. Just to confuse people. This is rampant in America. ‘Democratic’ and ‘Republican’ party–do they mean anything close to what they were founded on? I have no idea anymore.

    • MOre and more it seems to be about power (and money). Arrogating it and retaining it. Players in the system pursuing power (and money) who need to work within the rules is, perhaps, the fuel for a free-market to flourish. However, when the chaps who make the rules pursue power (and money), the landscape becomes dodgy.

  5. This was a superb post. Power complex and a resentment over our colonial-era legacy drives our elected leaders to do things that have no benefits save for chest-thumping and oneupmanship.
    Have a great day. God bless. 🙂

  6. This was one of the most pointless decisions ever by the government. But then again just when you think they cannot drop their rationality to lower grounds, they keep surprising you with new moves. Now thanks to this trailblazing decision, Gurgaon which houses some of the biggest MNCs sounds like a village name.

    • As they say, records are made only to be broken. So is the case with our leaders. This will remain the most unneeded decision only till the time they make the next, even more unneeded decision. Do you think we will have to wait long?

  7. I say what, have a personal problem.

    I find it very difficult to spell Italian names. Even after 20 years or so I don’t know how to spell Qottrochhi ( or is it Quottrotchi or Quote-kar- ke- roti ) and a new set of name puzzles has already flooded the market under the head – Augusta Westland ( or is it ‘Wet and not so Wet’ Land ?). Leave apart spell them I can not even pronounce some of the names.

    I suggest that the government should make it compulsory for all defense deals that all the Italian persons concerned should have Indianized names so that when the scams are detected the Indians find it convenient to know, pronounce and spell the names.

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