Victoria Terminus, they declared, would now be called Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Perhaps they didn’t realize that it is somewhat difficult to picture Shivaji supervising the building of a railway terminus. (The same could be said about Queen Victoria, but at least trains existed in her era.) Substituting Shivaji Maharaj for Queen Victoria signals a shift from imperialism, to, well, monarchy. Many would argue that the name CST signifies a pride in our heroes, but the absolute lack of relevance jars. This SMS forward sums it up quite nicely: “A railway announcement after ten years at CST: The train on platform number 6 will go to Thorale Bajirao Peshwe and will only halt at Babasaheb Ambedkar, Pandit Nehru, Sai Baba, Aniruddha Bapu, Kashiram Hedgewar and Mahatma Phule stations.” Sadly, this SMS isn’t as much of an exaggeration as it looks like. BEST bus tickets already call Flora Fountain Hutatma Chowk.
You can print those names, you can even announce them through loudspeakers, but you can’t make them part of popular culture that easily. CST has had some degree of success, but every single bus conductor will stare at you if you ask for a ticket to Ahilyabai Holkar Chowk (formerly Churchgate.) And you can never, never say “Let’s go waste our time on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Marg” (formerly Marine Drive. I wonder why they call Bose the forgotten hero.He seems to be quite well remembered in Mumbai. Even Linking Road is called Netaji Subhash Bose Marg. Maybe it’s because they forgot the ‘Chandra’.) What’s wrong with the name ‘Marine Drive’? No evil British people are being honoured. Besides, the British weren’t all heartless exploiters. They even named a road ‘Wodehouse Road’. If you ever find out that they didn’t mean PG Wodehouse, it would be kind not to tell me.
“Patriotism” is a shoddy excuse for such renaming. Credit should be given where credit is due, and a possible suggestion is to name buildings after the architects who designed them. Also, patriotism doesn’t explain why Haji Ali Chowk was renamed Vatsala Bai Desai Chowk, or why Dhobi Talao is now K Vasudev B Phadke Chowk. Renaming usually reflects the ideology of the government currently in power, and no citizen participation is ever requested. That’s hardly democratic, and, therefore, hardly betterment.
Maybe it all boils down to one fundamental and soul-searching question: Would you like it if “Shootout at Lokhandwala” was called “Shootout at Swami Samarth Nagar?”