It is hard to believe that the Bard, that great seer into the lives of humans, had actually thought that there was nothing of consequence in a name. He obviously failed to observe that inapt and inexact nomenclature can end up hurting and harming not just the individual who bears that name but often an entire geographical space, like a province, affecting the fate of the millions who live there. Leaders who rule the state of West Bengal are, thankfully, not equally blinkered, and have realised that it is an alphabet — the ‘W’ in West — that has overseen its steady decline. They have woken up to the fact that in a world governed by the immutable law of alphabetical sequences, most fall asleep by the time the unfortunately-named West Bengal stands up for itself.
Of course, homegrown sceptics have often blamed the homegrown bard — Rabindranath Tagore — for inflicting Bengalis with a reduced sense of the self by mentioning Bengal at the end of the inventory of provinces mentioned in the nat-ional anthem. That apart, the latest move by the West Bengal government to elicit an alternative name must be giving sleepless nights to Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Tamil Nadu, consigned as they soon will be to the bottom of the heap, the laggards of the national name-game.
Strangely, the fascinating insight into the psychological implications of names does not seem to hold much water in the outside world. Countries like Afghanistan or Albania, Belarus or Burkina Faso, are barely able to make the most of the primacy afforded by their names. In any multinational fora, they, along with others, must hold their breath (dozing off only at their own peril) till it is the turn of the United States of America, placed at an awful disadvantage in the alphabetical sequence to rise to speak. The pecking order, it seems, is not just determined by the vanity of names.