The puerile pastime of name games

You can change the name of a place. But you cannot change its history, heritage and ethos, inextricably bound up with the earlier name/s.

V S Naipaul, 'India: Essays,' Page 27

This pertains to a ridiculous but disturbing piece of news that a sweet shop owner in Bombay’s (sorry, no Mumbai for me, we've become sickly intolerant) Bandra west was forced to cover his shop sign with newspaper pages after Shiv Sena leader Nitin Nandgaonkar wanted Karachi dropped from its name.

One wonders how to react to such utter idiocy! Okay, you dislike Pakistan, continue to dislike but don't insist on changing names of places in India that bear names of places and cities in Pakistan. Furthermore, this atavistic hatred for all things that belong to Pakistan is not just misplaced, it shows morbid parochialism.

The problem is, social media-marinated nationalistic (Hindu) India is getting all false narrative/s as regards Pakistan. Agreed, Pakistan is a mischievous country. At times, even calling it a rogue is an understatement. But what's wrong with an innocuous Karachi Sweets, that has been around for more than six decades?

As a frequent visitor to Pakistan, teaching the Quran and having pursued an MPhil and doctorate degrees on Urdu poet Raghupati Sahay 'Firaq' Gorakhpuri's homosexual poetry and Mohammad Rafi's musicality respectively, I daresay, Pakistan and its people have no problem with places and eateries with Indian names.

Who can forget the legendary Bombay Bakery in Hyderabad, Sindh, which is a century-old? Its CCC (coffee-cup-cake) is still a rage. The legacy of the Thadani family still continues. No one has forced them to remove the name Bombay from the board. In fact, you can't retain Bombay in Bombay. You'd have to change it to Mumbai! Such are the deplorable times in modern India!

Great Urdu poet Kunwar Mohinder Singh Bedi's first cousin Satnam Singh stayed back in Sialkot, the city of Allama Iqbal and his son opened a dhaba (a roadside eatery, though now very swish and plush) in Sialkot, in his father's name. It serves veg food (yes, veg cuisine in Pakistan)! Its Amritsari sarson da saag and makki di roti are the signature delicacies. Though Punjabi Muslims also make sarson da saag and makki di roti, but Satnam's Amritsari sarson da saag and makki di roti da jawaab nahin! His grandson is my friend. I asked him, has anyone in Pakistan forced them to remove Amritsari from the board? He says, no one has ever said anything about Amritsari. His reply echoes in my mind, 'Pakistanis have better and wiser things to do!'

Behind the defence colony in Karachi, you can visit Madrasi Magic that serves idli, dosa, paysam, uthappam and other typical South Indian delicacies. Pakistani Army officers, with their families, regularly visit Madrasi Magic and gorge on the fluffiest idlis and the crispiest dosas. No one has ever ordered the removal of Madrasi just because Madras (sorry, Chennai! A gorgeous name like Madras has been changed to Chennai!) is a metropolis in southern India. A big chunk of Tamil and Malayalee Muslims migrated to Pakistan in the wake of Partition and opened eateries there with Indian names. Lahore's upmarket has one Kochi Dosas, run by a Hindu! Mind you, Kochi is a city in Kerala!

Near the cricket Stadium in Faislabad (erstwhile Lyallpur), you get to see Maqsood Mian's Kolhapuri Masala, a small but extremely famous eatery run by a Muslim, whose grandfather migrated from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, during the Partition. The said joint specialises in Kolhapuri tadka and spicy non-veg preparations of Kolhapur. Maqsood Mian has no plan to remove Kolhapuri from the board because no one in Pakistan has ever insisted he do so.

When it comes to Kolhapur, Pakistan has many footwear outlets that proudly display: 'Yahan par Kolhapuri chappalein mayassar hain (Kolhapuri chappals are available here)'. In all ghazal concerts in Pakistan's cities, the refined listeners and ghazal-singers wear Kolhapuri chappals! My Pakistani friends request me to get Kolhapuri chappals whenever I visit Pakistan.

Ranjeet's Jallandhari Dhaba has been famous in all of Pakistan not just in Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan Punjab Province. Moreover, it's very close to Pakistan's Air Force base. None ever made bones about why the name Jallandhar (a city in India's Punjab) is still there on the board!

The point is, what's in a name? Call a rose by any name and it would smell sweet has become hackneyed. You don't need the Bard of Avon to remember this time and again.

To be candid, India hasn't done anything worthwhile in recent times, except for changing names of places. These are frivolous pastimes of petty politicians, who think Allahabad's new name Prayagraj or Aurangabad's proposed name, Sambhaji Nagar, will bring about some revolutionary changes. This is rank foolishness.

Removing the names of places based on cities of Pakistan will serve no purpose. The same happened to Karachi Bakery in Bangalore following the Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019. Over-patriotic people forced the owner to remove Karachi from the board.

It's time to grow up. And if at all you want to fight, fight like a man. Don't indulge in puerile acts of removing names and replacing them with your brand of incongruous names. The world laughs at your juvenile capers. Don't relegate yourself to becoming the butt of ridicule on the world-stage. Instead, find better and more worthwhile things to focus on.

The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and cultures.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal