Name game

aurangzeb-road The Aurangzeb Road in Delhi has been renamed after former president Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

What's in a name, asked the Bard before going on to say that what we call the rose would smell as sweet by any other name.

But not everyone would agree with him. Particularly when it comes to names given to public spaces. If they had a life to call their own, and a mind too, they would suffer a crisis of identity.

Recently, the government of India decided to rename the capital's famous Aurangzeb Road to immortalise our very popular and beloved late president Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Aurangzeb has not been painted favourably by Indian historians, and he would not evoke the feelings Shah Jahan does. Yet old Delhiites say people paid a lot just to have that address, which may well stick. For no one refers to Connaught Place as Indira Chowk, a move to immortalise late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

In Haryana, midway between Delhi and Chandigarh, lies a tiny lake. It is the Karna Lake, a tourist halt point near Kurukshetra of the Mahabharata fame. Whenever the state's legendary (even if for the wrong reasons sometimes), late chief minister Bansi Lal came to power, it was renamed. It became the B.N. Chakravarty lake, as Lal wanted to honour the ICS officer-turned Governor of Haryana. Apparently, the Governor admonished Devi Lal, also in the race for the office of CM, saying he was not a school master to count heads and hands. Prove your strength in the legislative assembly, he said. Bansi Lal not only thought it was fair, but could prove his majority.

There are stories like these attached to names of places. But there is a larger sense of history that can be maintained fairly if we do not play around with names of places, programmes and institutions whenever a party with a different ideology, role models and heroes, comes to power.

I for one, am sure Dr Kalam would have been happier if the government opened a new chain of schools, colleges or universities and named them after him. He has driven on Aurangzeb Road a million times. And now, others will "take left into Kalam". Sad. Unfair to our top scientist.

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