Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Craze for changing names

The British, when they were masters of this nation, gave names as their fancy took, to our towns, cities, streets, homes, flora ans fauna. In this process the english tongue often mutilated the existing name! thus the name Mulagathanni became Mulligatawny, Udhagamandalam became Ootacamund,Veerarajapet became Virajpet, Madikeri became Mercara,Thiruvananthapuram became Trivandrum, Thiruchinapally was nicely shortened to Trichy. They some how did not fully damage Srirangapattna which became Seringapatam. Thankfully the latter name didn't stick and the old name is in common use now. Incidentally Srirangapatnam was once a very famous city being the capital of the Mysore empire under Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan.

Bangalore, sorry Bengaluru was a sleepy village before the British established their cantonment there and the present day Coxtown and Fraser town are older than the extensions of Basavangudi and Malleswaram. The old town was just about a kilometre area confined to couple of narrow streets, bearing the names such as Balepet, Chickpet. There is a also street called Thigalarpet. Named after the community of Thigalas who emigrated from Tamilnadu in waves in the 15 and 16 centuries.In the famous yearly Karaga festival  the idol bearer is a Thigala youngster.

If one digs facts from history, one will find these men like Frasor, Cook, Richards, Bowring did a lot to improve the conditions of living in the erstwhile Bangalore and the names need to be retained and not changed. What is done is done, We cannot go back to Fraser town which has now become Pulikeshi nagar and Cox town has become Sarvajna nagar. Fortunately some names have remained like Assaye [in memory of a battle] Road, Osbourne road, Richards town, Bowring Hospital. St Marks road. Hopefully will remain so.

The naming or altering the names did not confine to towns and cities only. It extended to plant and bird life too. Peepal tree[Ficus Religiosa] is well known and worshipped by the devout Hindu.There is another tree, the leaves of which resemble that of Peepal and the Britisher who observed this called it bastard Peepal!. Similarly he called another tree as bastard Mahogany. The sturdy darkish grey kite became Pariah Kite and the elegant russet and brown coloured one, Brahminy kite. I some times wonder if the british planter who sat on the porch of his estate home sipping his tonic water and observing the trees and birds around him must have thought of these names in a partially inebriated state!.

There is an interesting  background to tonic water which is now a popular commonplace add to Gin or Vodka, has its origin to those days of British Raj. Tonic water contains Quinine which gives it that slightly bitter taste. Tonic water came to be used as a preventive to control of Malaria which most of them must have suffered and some have succumbed.

The other day I was taking a walk and saw sign board on one of the side streets of Domlur. It bore the name of Erapalli Prasanna. The legendary off spinner of the sixties who lives nearby. This I thought was apt.

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