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Mumbaiwale: The stickler of Santa Cruz

This Mumbai place name is so popular, more than 100 locations around the world (and beyond) share it, and one man is campaigning to spell it right

mumbai Updated: Mar 05, 2019 14:13 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Debashish Chakraverty, Santa Cruz resident, is pressuring authorities to correct errors on signage in the neighbourhood. Santa Cruz should be two words, he says. And there’s no such thing as an Avenue Road, anyway. (Pramod Thakur/HT Photo)

When my uncle bought a home in Goa in the 1990s, my family was surprised to know that the Panjim village in which the place stood was called Santa Cruz. Over the next few years, as satellite TV beamed into our homes, we found out that there was another Santa Cruz, all the way in the USA.

This week, all it took was a Google search for me to find that there are more than 100 locations around the world that share that name. There is a Santa Cruz on every inhabited continent – in nations that you rarely hear about. There’s a Santa Cruz in Cape Verde in Africa, one in the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, and at least 15 in the Philippines. Santa Cruz is a fort in Algeria, a church in Kerala, a castle in Spain, and an underwater ghost town in Canada. It’s the old name of touristy Agadir in Morocco.

It even has an out-of-this-world location – one of the many craters on Mars is named Santa Cruz, after the Californian town.

All of them mean the same thing – Holy Cross, a Spanish or Portuguese reference to the cross on which Jesus died or an indication of a chapel or church in the area.

It’s hardly the most popular name place. That’s Santa Maria in North America and MG Road in India. In Mumbai, however, the name Santa Cruz carries mystery and mess.

Local resident, Debashish Chakraverty a 43-year-old financial investor who moved back from the US in 2015, has seen both up close. “I returned to find that Santa Cruz had gone from being a cosmopolitan locality to a conservative one,” he says. “A lot of the stuff had changed; a lot of it was just simply wrong.”

The most visible change was how much of the local signage bore spelling errors. Tagore Road was Tagor Road; Central Avenue was confusingly renamed Central Avenue Road and worst of all, Chakraverty found, the words Santa Cruz were increasingly being shoved into one word.

Chakraverty has been writing to local corporators for three years, he’s cited images of Santa Cruz station dating back a century, which show the neighbourhood written as two words. He’s included the fact that the namesakes in Goa and Kerala are both two words too. But he finds they aren’t terribly interesting in getting it right. “An error is one thing but wilful apathy is quite another,” he says. “That’s dangerous because if you use the wrong word for long enough it becomes the truth.”

Thus far, he’s managed to get local signs corrected from Craft Lane to Croft Lane, and Gjuar Lane to Gujjar Lane. But his Santa Cruz efforts are yet to bear fruit. “Come on, it can’t be that hard,” he laments. “Abroad, people are passionate about local history – here the attitude is aisa hi chatla hai.”

He’s part of a Facebook group Santa Cruz That Was, based on a 1981 book by local historian Teresa Albuquerque. “My fear is that with stations being renamed to obliterate colonial history, it’s only a matter of time before our Portuguese history will be wiped out too.”

First Published: Mar 05, 2019 14:13 IST