21 April, 2021

Bombay Or Mumbai? Perfectly Schizoid

Being urban is, by definition, being marked by ‘manyness’. When our gods and goddesses carry many names, why must our cities be reduced to the tyranny of one?

Bombay Or Mumbai? Perfectly Schizoid

India’s political leaders have devoutly believed, since the dawn of independence, that all they have to do to imp­rove a city’s prospects is to change its name. Magically, the new name confers upon the city a radiance it formerly lacked, or restores it to its lost glory. Poverty and illiteracy cease, amenities appear out of the blue, the housing and sanitation problems are solved, the traffic runs smoothly, pollution vanishes, social conflicts are dissolved in festivity, and the general populace finds happiness in streets now paved with gold. All this is, of course, rubbish. The changing of place names is intended to serve a populist agenda. It app­eals to indigenist sentiment and salves a local sense of grievance nursed in the face of the rapid influx of migrant labour, a perceived loss of control over one’s own territory, or the experience of marginalisation by a rem­ote central authority. This was certainly true of the process by which Bombay was renamed as Mumbai in 1996, the groundwork for the change having been laid in 1995, by the government...

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