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created Dec 6th 2018, 11:58 by bhanu sen



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If you are fond of changing place names, you may find the resilience of old names quite annoying. Though pushed out of official usage, they tend to linger. If you want to know why, you can’t do better than talk to a common user. In Allahabad, for instance, if you ask a rickshaw puller to take you to the Amar Shahid Chandra Shekhar Azad Park, he is likely to verify your intent by asking, Company Bagh In Delhi, I haven't met anyone yet who refers to Connaught Circus as Rajiv Chowk. The only user of this new name is the Delhi Metro.
    Whether the new name will stick, literally, like a stamp or label, becomes clear in the moment of change itself. When Ceylon changed to Sri Lanka, one knew that the popularity of Radio Ceylon would not come in the way. That Connaught Circus would not give way to Rajiv Chowk was also equally clear. I suppose they couldn't call it Rajiv Circus, so they chose the ethnic-sounding Chowk though it wasn't. Six radial roads meet the inner circle, but Hindi provides no name for such a structure. Years have passed, but even the State Bank branch located in the inner circle has not adopted the new name.
    A similar fate awaits the new names of Allahabad and Mughalsarai, or so it seems for now. Noida's lesson should have sufficed to indicate that once a name has received cosy asylum in vernacular memory and usage, it is not easy to dislodge it.
    When old place names are replaced by a person's, the chances of success are low. The founder of my alma mater had deliberately avoided giving his own name to it. The legend was that Jawaharlal Nehru had advised Hari Singh Gour to use the town's name, Saugar, otherwise it might get shifted to Jabalpur when he was no more there to protect the magnificent campus in the vicinity of his humble hometown. Years later, when the wave of personalised campus names was sweeping through Madhya Pradesh, the university was renamed after its founder. Those of us whose first degrees had been granted in the old days did worry for some time whether we would need to get our certifying papers re-authenticated. Our worry proved unnecessary. In the old days, young students walked to his modest memorial near the library and felt curious enough about his life to find a biography or his own books in the library. Now, when the university itself has been named after him, apparently against his own wish, I doubt if the name will arouse any curiosity.

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