Renaming Mumbai's Railway Stations: Unveiling Mumbaikars' Thoughts On The Shift

Renaming Mumbai's Railway Stations: Unveiling Mumbaikars' Thoughts On The Shift

Depending on who you talk to the responses are amazingly varied

Dinesh RahejaUpdated: Sunday, March 24, 2024, 11:44 AM IST
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The government’s decision to rename Mumbai Central after philanthropist Jagannath Shankar Seth, Currey Road as Lalbagh, Sandhurst Road as Dongri, Marine Lines as Mumbadevi, Charni Road as Girgaon, Cotton Green as Kala Chowki, King’s Circle as Tirthankara Parshvanath and Dockyard Road as Mazgaon may have led to the odd TV debate, but largely it seems to be eliciting the same response as a picnic on a wet afternoon.

Depending on who you talk to the responses are amazingly varied. 24-year-old MNC consultant Parthiv Gala just shrugs his shoulders. “Whatever rocks whoever’s boat! Heritage… Not heritage… Legacy… Not legacy… How does it concern me?” His actor-entrepreneur peer Shreya Verma calls the choice of names problematic. “What makes Mumbai different is its cosmopolitanism. The ring of different names shows the syncretic nature of the city which plays a great equaliser cutting across all kinds of barriers. The changed names seem like forced homogenisation which strike at the very heart of the city’s cosmopolitan spirit.”

Fourteen kilometre away from Juhu, 52-year-old Wadala homemaker Shipra Pal grins cynically in reaction. “Are all these stations now completely safe and clean? What’s the point of making cosmetic name changes? Will it help the women hanging from the crowded bogies at peak hours for dear life?” she asks citing the average 11 deaths daily on Mumbai’s suburban railway section. “Ironic that it’s called a lifeline as it transports nearly 78 lakh people daily. But count the deaths and one shudders. So many of these stations have an associated signature stench about them. Why can’t we fix these things first?”

Nearly 4 km to the West septuagenarian Seema Vaidya who lives a stone’s throw away from Sena Bhavan evokes history and identity to justify the name change. “Why should we go on living with British vestiges and worse romanticise it as unchangeable history? There was a resistance to Bombay being renamed officially to Mumbai too in the 90s. But eventually everyone got habituated, didn’t they?” she asks. She expresses happiness that Jagannath Shankar Seth is finally getting his due. “You know Dadabhai Nowrojee, M G Rnade, Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Balgangadhar Tilak were all students at institutions he built?” she informs and adds, “He spoke out against the practice of sati and donated land for several developmental works which still serve the city well. While the smallest contribution of non-Maharashtrians is eulogised, he has largely remained unsung.”    

Her ire is about something else though. “Around the same time that Bombay was renamed Mumbai, there was a demand for Dadar to be renamed Chaityabhumi. How and why was that opposed and why is that name not in the current list?” she demands to know.

Like Pal, Vaidya too has a problem with cosmetic changes. “50 stations are being beautified. I saw what they have done to Matunga on the Central Railway. Just when I was feeling satisfied with the attention to aesthete and detailing I noticed the name above and my jaw fell. Instead of Railway it says Rail-away in a HUGE font size emblazoned right on the top of the entrance near the escalator. In many ways it symbolises the actual mindset and approach. Scoring political brownie points on the face of an election is easy. Investing love in the work being done is not,” she scoffs.

Poet-writer and research scholar Avinash Usha Vasant who lives in Naigaum not too far away echoes Vaidya. “If you want local aspirations reflected in the new name the first name to go should be Dadar. There was nothing called Dadar ever! If we can’t restore the original name Naigaon since there is already another station by that name in Palghar, we should call it Chaityabhumi in honour of India’s tallest leaders ever!”

Singer-performer Suneeta Rao says it is all about convenience of what rolls off the tongue easily. “With due respect to whatever ideology or thought is driving this name change, I wonder how many will actually say the full name like it is. VT’s been renamed after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj but people find it easy to say CSMT. So will we now go from Mumbai Central to JS Central? I might get used to names like Girgaon, Dongri and Lalbaugh which are easy to say but Tirthankara Parshvanath? Like really??”

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