Road names change, roads don’t

Pride in history comes only after pride in existing cityscape; infrastructure improvements is a higher priority compared to frivolous exercises like changing road names.

An announcement from BBMP in newspapers a while back has asked for citizens to write in with objections if any, to the proposed changes in road names. It is not just roads but also areas that have been renamed (among them Frazer Town, which everybody still refers to as Frazer Town rather than as Pulakeshinagar.

The rationale for name changes is that the old names are relics from a colonial past and that we need to commemorate our own, indigenous heroes and  leaders (from Kittur Chennamma to Kempe Gowda, to former judge, governor and freedom fighter Nittoor Srinivasa Rau) which is laudable, but are we really commemorating their achievements as leaders, by merely renaming roads and localities and at the same time jettisoning the values that   they stood for? There are dimensions of arguments that no one seems to have gone into.

Albert Victor Road → Alur Venkata Rao Road (A V Road)
Austin Town → F Kittel Nagar
Benson Town → Kadamba Nagar
Cavalry Road → Kamaraja Road
Cox Town → Jeevanahalli
Cubbonpet Main Road → T M Naganna Road
Doddakunte → Sarvagna Nagar
East End Road → R.V.Road
Fort Main Road → Krishna Rajendra Wadiyar
Frazer Town – Pulakeshi Nagar,
Grant Road → Vittal Mallya Road
Irwin Circle → Professor Shivashankar Circle
Kanakanapalya Main Road → Ashoka Pillar Road
Double Road → Kengal Hanumanthaiah Road
MacIver Town → Shantala Nagar
Miller’s Road → Basaveshwara Road
Mission Road → Kalinga Rao
Murphy Town → Hoysala Nagar
Residency Road → Field Marshal Cariappa Road
Richmond Town → Sir Mirza Ismail Nagar
Ringwood Circle → Kantharaj Urs Circle
Sampangiramnagar Main Road → Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road
Seppings Road – Sri Devi Muthyalamma
Sidney Road → Kasturba Road
South Parade → MG Road
Sudda Guntepalya Road → Christ School Road
Tasker Town → Swami Shivanandapuram
The Oriental Circle → Anil Kumble Circle
Williams Town → K C Reddy Nagar

Most of the leaders we sing about, exemplified probity, courage and uprightness. They had the courage to oppose and fight against injustice. Does renaming a road promote this? Ask even a primary school kid who reads about ‘leaders’ in its prescribed texts – Gandhi, Nehru and others are just names to be memorised for exams, no more. When existing leaders show no respect for abiding values, when teachers themselves remain unconcerned, unenthusiastic and uninspired, we cannot really blame the children. Tens of thousands of commuters pass via what is popularly known as Double Road (officially, Hanumanthiah Road) but how many even know who he was and what he did, even of they refer to the road by its new name?

The other dimension is that one cannot wipe away history – the fact remains that the British ruled over us for two centuries, and left a legacy (some of it, beneficial too). When civic attention is badly needed to address urgent problems of the metropolis (garbage clearance, improving state run schools and clinics, maintaining roads in decent condition, running the city’s administration in an efficient manner to ensure a safe and decent basic living environment for all) it is absurd to spend time on resolutions on renaming roads,  and inserting advertisements in the papers calling for objections (media insertions cost the exchequer money, and that money comes from taxpayers).

The list of roads and areas that have been renamed on recent years, is long, really long, so it is not just one or two changes.

And in these computerised times, there is also one more concern – change the name (por even spelling, like Bangalore turned into Bengaluru) and computers (which do not use their brains to work out logical changes) will refuse to provide the information one seeks (try missing just a dot in accessing a site, and it will say “no such ID exists”. It is very important to retain standard spellings and names, especially in a global context of internet linkages. (You cannot book a ticket online, for instance, if you don’t get the exact spelling right) Sometimes a computer might ask “Did you mean….” if you have keyed in something close, but that again, is chancy, and could mislead.

Orissa is now Odisha, but what happens to the alphabetical listing, in computers, when such name changes take place? If South End road is seen as an offensive and unacceptable (unpatriotic) appellation, do we translate south into its Kannada version and add the vernacular word for road – since it is in south Bengaluru and is a road anyway? Absurdities can abound, if such exercises are carried to their logical ends.

In Mumbai, the famous Crawford market is still referred to by this name although it was renamed as Mahatma Phule market, many decades ago. In Chennai (aka Madras) there is a "Barber Bridge" with a hilarious history – it was originally Hampton bridge, that got corrupted to "Amatan bridge" and ambattan in Tamil is barber, so Barber Bridge it is, now!

Which is all very well for writers and researchers working on history of a city, but for the ordinary citizens, pride in history (local or national) comes only after pride in existing cityscape;  infrastructure improvements will any day be a higher priority compared to  frivolous exercises like changing road names. Take a poll, if you want confirmation. 

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