Bangalore v/s Bengaluru: The Showdown

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.…” Hence quoth Shakespeare, but he wasn’t actually proposing that we call it by some other name. He was merely making a point. And he did. He made a very good point, whatever it was. Bravo, hurrah, and all that jazz.

But that is past history. Let it be. What is of concern here is THAT force of nature which drove me to the insane depth of quoting Shakespeare. I’m talking, of course, of the new name for this city. Bengalooru. Or is it Bengaluru? Does it really matter? Wouldn’t it have been stupid enough even without the ‘choices’?

I like the name “Bangalore”. I can sometimes actually feel the ‘bang’ of the city life. It would take a long time to get adjusted to the new avatar. I feel that maybe someday late into the future, I’d read something in the paper about “floods in Bengaluru”, and think, “Oh, Gosh. That’s too bad. Lord help the people over there. I’m so glad I’m safe and sound here in Bangalore”. I don’t think I’ll tell anyone I’m in Bengalooru. And I don’t think I’ll EVER say I’m a Bengalooravayoyadayada or whatever.

Maybe Bengaluru was a suitable name for the city twenty years ago. And even then, I’d still hang onto the word ‘maybe’. Bangalore has come a long way. It is one of the most recognized IT hubs in the world. I’ve heard it mentioned as a tech-resort. The city has evolved so radically and its identity conforms so beautifully into the name “Bangalore” that it is ridiculously easy to identify the persona of the city into its name. The same applies to Bengaluru, except for the ‘easy’ part. The ‘ridiculous’ part fits like a glove.

Let us not forget the true purpose of language… Any language. It’s all about convenience. An ease of communication. Is this name change going to benefit anyone? Really? Does the name Bangalore threaten the country’s ‘cultural identity’? Just because it is phonetically different from what the local dialect allows, it doesn’t stop the word ‘Bangalore’ from representing India. It is high time people let their mindsets evolve into the present scenario. The advocates of this administrative nightmare ought to be shoved into a time machine and brought into 2005.

The street names, bus labels, road signs and other such things in Bangalore are mostly, if not exclusively written in Kannada. Naturally, they lose a major chunk of their utility in this city, where over 65.3% of the working people don’t know how to read Kannada. Of course I just made up the figure, the same way I make up about 32.74% of all my percentage figures, but the point is still very much poignant. Aren’t these boards supposed to help people?

I know of friends who just gave up trying to make out what the bus boards said, and started hailing autos, even though Kannada-Hieroglyphics on the street-sign next to them indicated that the place they wanted to go to was just around the corner. The auto driver, fortunately, was understanding enough not to evoke embarrassment by pointing it out, choosing instead, to give them the 100 rupee detour. That is how friendly the clamor for ‘cultural identity’ has brought about.

Professor U R Ananthamurthy, the Baptist of the city, said, “The name change is the first step. It is to force English language to accept – within its sound system – a word like Bengaluru, which ends in a vowel, rather than a consonant”. Confusing. Is the ultimate aim to amend the English language? I can accept that Kannada is a beautiful language. It isn’t hard to see Karnataka embracing its mother tongue. But is the revered professor seriously trying to change the global English fabric? That’s weird. And I use the word ‘weird’, not because the English language doesn’t offer more colorful adjectives, but because of the restrictions brought about by my Indian upbringing. See? Our culture and the English language CAN get along!!

I keep hearing about the history that the name Bengaluru has. Hey, Bangalore has a history too. In fact, Bengaluru IS Bangalore’s history. If anything, Bangalore should remind us of the colonization, the oppression, the rule, and our subsequent victory, which are true testimonials to what this nation stands for; a victory which was historically unique; a story that should evoke pride in every Indian. And it’s disgraceful to even try to deny that piece of history.

Bangalore not only has a history; it has a future as well.

I must say it is amusing to see how the city has arranged its priorities. “Sure, Bangalore is plagued by pollution, traffic congestion, potholes, inconsistencies in road regulations, security issues, violence, low social mobility, insufficient public transport facilities, parking problems, and an infrastructure that’s rapidly proving to be inadequate. But you know what? Leave them for now. Let’s change the name of the city instead. All in favor say ‘aye'”. In a way this WILL solve all of Bangalore’s problems. All these setbacks will belong to Bengaluru, not Bangalore anymore.

Of course people would get used to the name change. Even amputees get used to their new lives. The point is that they shouldn’t have to. And the next step, I’m threatened, is to use Kannada medium to teach English in schools. One of the chief advantages India has/had is/was the standard of English we have been able to present. What do I know? Perhaps the way to economic boom IS a workforce capable of saying “Ullo. English me speeching goodly”. Maybe I should focus on the bright side. China will be pleased.

Apparently, idiotism can often disguise itself as patriotism. I believe that true patriotism lies in improving the country, in pushing forward, in embracing advancements, in enhancing the economy, in serving the needs of its citizens. Adapting or reviving old traditions may seem the patriotic thing to do in a superficial sense, but it would actually bring little or no material benefit. In 1900, India had over 500 native states. Perhaps the next step in establishing the cultural identity would be splitting up our 26 states.

I’m kidding. Don’t do it.

Please don’t.

I think I’ll stop this here. I’m Hamish Joy. And you can bet your last rupee that twenty years from now, I’ll still be Hamish Joy. I kind of like the consistency.

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