It may have been renamed ‘Lok Kalyan Marg’ but for Delhiites, it’s still known as Race Course Road. Despite being renamed decades ago, many British-era streets and institutions across the country retain their original identity in people’s minds even as rechristening of several public places has bred confusion between the old and the modern generations.
Anuradha Reddy, 69, still looks for Willingdon Hospital and Willingdon Airport whenever she visits Delhi from Hyderabad, only to get quizzical looks from auto-rickshaw drivers. “Autowallahs just give me a blank stare whenever I tell them to take me towards Willingdon Hospital (now RML Hospital) or Willingdon Airport (now Safdarjung Airport) flyover, as if I am imagining something. I have been visiting Delhi often, and for me and my mother, the new names never come on the lips,” she said.
Reddy, convener of the Hyderabad Chapter of Delhi-based Indian National Trust for Art and Culture (INTACH), says that “renaming exercises” have “robbed” various vibrant cities of their character, and created confusion among people. “I still use Bombay and Calcutta, but my children say Mumbai and Kolkata. And Bangalore was changed to Bengaluru; I find it silly. In the next 10 years, children growing up would not know the historical connect,” she said.
While old-timers and new generations may be experiencing a communication gap on ‘Willingdon’ and ‘RML’ nomenclatures, the capital city’s iconic Connaught Place continues to enjoy its original identity in the consciousness of people of all ages.
Aurangzeb Road in Delhi was earlier rechristened to ‘Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’ and Race Course Road was recently renamed as ‘Lok Kalyan Marg’ drawing sharp reactions from various quarters. The DMRC has also renamed Race Course Metro Station in line with the new identity.
INTACH Delhi convener and noted architect AGK Menon says, “A city like Delhi has multiple layers of history. By renaming the streets and places, those layers are slowly being erased. Politicians resort to such quixotic ideas to earn a few populist brownie points.”
“They can very well build new roads or start scholarships and schemes in the name of great personalities, but that involves real work. So it is like picking the lowest fruits in the branch,” he scoffs.