“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”
William Shakespeare might say so, but we in India beg to differ. A name is everything: It’s an identity and a signpost that reminds us of an often glorified past.
If all goes according to plan, soon West Bengal will shed its tilt towards the West and become Bengal. The jury is still out on the vernacular substitute to this, with Bangla and Banga topping the list.
In “India, that is Bharat”, a name is a tool used by ‘cultural’ and political parties to reach out to the sons of the soil, or rake up sentiments, like the Punjabi subah or Tamil eelam.
So what would it be if other states, the ones that have not yet taken the desi turn like Odisha, were to follow West Bengal aka Bengal aka Bangla aka Banga? Here are a few:
Delhi: The prime options to replace Delhi are Indraprasta and Dilli. While the former gives a more cultural tinge to the National Capital, the latter has a more aam aadmi appeal to it — and no, that’s not a pointer to which political party would prefer which name.
Goa: This state goes by different names and none of it refers to Feni. Goparashtra, Gomanta, Gopakapattam, Gopakapuri, Nelkinda, and Sindapur are some of the old names. The name Govarashtra finds mention in the Mahabharata and when translated it means a land of cowherds. All are big names for a small state.
Kerala: Keralam is how the state is written and referred to in Malayalam. It is an idea that echoes in literary and political circles whenever the flow of dirhams or riyals reduces. Some etymologists wrongly decipher the origins of Keralam to ‘the land of coconut’ (as Kera means coconut). And if etymology could be drawn from current demography, we could also look at ‘Gulfalam’.
Tamil Nadu: Tamil nationalism as a political cause is today a thing of the past and Madras has become Chennai. But still in the narrow lanes of Mylapore or in teashops outside the Madurai Meenakshi Temple, or during the annual Tamil language conferences in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, one can hear whispers for a Tamizh Nadu.
No matter how we change the names of our states, little is going to change in the day of the life of an average Indian. We’re all creatures of habit and that’s going to be the way it is: In north India, a southerner will still be called a “Madrasi” and in Kerala a person from Odisha will be a “Bengali”; and, the sale of the Star of Bombay at duty-free shops will show no signs of a dip, and yet you can’t shout Bombay at Chowpatty or at CST without fearing the Marathi manoos.