Sunday, 22 November 2009

The dreaded B word

I read a very nice link on Facebook today on 2611. The author, someone who has come to Mumbai from Calcutta to work, vented her anguish on the year gone by. Here's the link. It's that time of the year when we have all become cynical again. But why not. Nothing has changed since then has it?

There was an interesting reader comment on the same Facebook post which referred to the 'silly debate on Mumbai versus Bombay'.

So here, at the risk of getting stoned and tarred, are my two bits on the subject.

Mumbai will always be Bombay in my heart. That's because I grew up in an era when Mumbai was Bombay, Chennai was Madras, CST was VT, and Myanmar was Burma. And, in case you are wondering, Kolkata is Calcutta to me.

The truth is that Bombay doesn't officially exist anymore. Like it or not, it is Mumbai. And it has been renamed by those who belong to the city. So one can cry for Bombay. Ridicule the change. But Bombay will remain Mumbai. Till it changes again.

Frankly I doubt if the essence of the city has changed with the renaming. It is still a city on the move. A city which doesn't just talk. A city of doers. A city where everyone wants to come to. A city which people hate. Yet love. As the Eagles would say a city you can check out of but can't leave. To the world Mumbai is India. We suffered that when the terrorists attacked us last year. They knew that nothing can give the sort of mileage that Mumbai would.

It is a bit like a woman changing her surname after marriage. The person remains the same. But the documents need to be changed.

Mumbai is the new name of Bombay. And there is no point in using any other name in an official forum. Offical forums would be forms and applications, reports and organised mass media. The Blog space remains personal still and I am not sure if rules apply here.

My argument therefore is that one should refer to Bombay as Mumbai in official forums. There's nothing ideological about it. It is a fact.

One's personal relation with Mumbai is a completely different though. What the Mumbai brigade should understand that most who refer to Mumbai as Bombay do it more out of habit than as an intentional slight on the city or its culture. Politicians who insist on taking their oath in Hindi might have hidden agendas. Not the average Jaikishen who is trying to scrounge his rent for the most expensive hundred square feet in the world while hanging precariously from a local train.

I would compare it with a term of endearment which you might have for your lover which might not be her formal name. Or like calling an old college classmate 'fatty' like in the old days though he is now a trim and fit Mr Arora, MBA Harvard. It is not an insult. It is how you relate to the city. if characters in films and books say Bombay that's because people still do.

And, emotions, can't be doctored or tailored. Nor can art and literature. Ask Goebbels.

So what I am trying to say is that if you want call Mumbai Bombay, remember it is Mumbai now. Get real and don't end up being a lover from the past.

And for those who swear by Mumbai, the city needs a lot more from you than your bashing up those who have used the B word.

There is a hell of a lot that needs to fixed in this city. So let's not get sidetracked and then marvel at the Shanghais and Singapores and Dubais of the world.

Post Script ... I read a nice article by Bhavin Jhankaria of Mumbai Mirror a few weeks back. He made a similar argument. This is the link


Corinne Rodrigues said...

Hi Kalyan -It's been a while since I came by here. Just thought I'd say hello and tell you what a pleasure it is to catch up on your sensible, down to earth and inspiring writing!
Take care.

Harshad said...

'M'eautifully put, Kalyan! :)

The knife said...

Hey Corinne, thanks so much. Very sweet comment. Am flattered.

I was there with three Bengali friends and my Parsi wife Celebrating Bandra at the Catholic Bandra Gym. Now tell me which other city could offer such a confluence. Its sick that politicans with vested interests are holding us to ransom. Time and again.

Harshad, I am a sucker for puns. Thanks. More mushrooms coming your way

Scarlett said...

I agree with you. Mumbai should be referred to as that for all official purposes. But at a personal level, people should be allowed to call it Bombay if they want. B/c those who do call it Bombay do so b/c they have an emotional connect to that name, not b/c they want to offend anyone. And it would do a lot of political parties, and the beloved city they're destroying by the day, to focus on making their 'Mumbai' a better place to live in. We need to get over state & language barriers for the greater good of our country & it's people.

Scarlett said...

Question to Harshad - HOW DID YOU LOSE 35 KILOS??? I don't know you but pls share your secret for the sake of humanity :)

Mumbai Diva said...

excellent post. i love the simile of a woman changing her name after shaadi yet essentially being the same person.

k said...

Miss Bilimoria likes this post very much

The knife said...

Scarlett, true they just can't just try to control our minds and thoughts. The sheer cheek and shame of these guys makes one's blood boil though

M D, Miss Bilimoria: :)