A hill by any other name

Jun 24, 2013, 08:06 IST | Fiona Fernandez

After the hullabaloo over ‘vulgar’ lingerie mannequins and their impact on the male psyche, Mumbaiites must now contend with another, equally bizarre development — the proposal to rename Malabar Hill to Ramnagari citing that the former name has a British link. The initiator of this idea forwarded to the BMC implies that the area has a strong connect with the Hindu king dating back to the Ramayana age, and is also home to several old temples; hence it must be bear its rightful name. What researchers, historians and their ilk have been trying to reason ever since this bit of news hit headlines, a few days back, is that the term Malabar Hill has its origins in India itself, dating back to when marauders and pirates from Kerala’s Malabar coast would arrive at this hilly promontory in their ships and vessels. There is no record of any colonial blessing in the naming of this region, whatsoever. This corporator goes on to mention in his letter that the area was renamed after these Malabaris, and that the term for this region stuck since the British era, therefore the need to change. 
Which brings us to the larger concern here:  today, the BMC will actually sit down to discuss this proposal. What if a go-ahead is given? Imagine the amount of public money that is in danger of being wasted on something that doesn’t benefit the common Mumbaikar by any stretch of imagination. He/she quietly goes about his/her  life in extremely challenging circumstances, daily – dealing with infrastructure that is bursting at the seams with insufficient, inhuman conditions of train commute, backbreaking road travel, a bullish auto-taxi network that was once hailed as the country’s best, and a million other woes. 
Then, there is a battery of civic issues that need immediate attention in our strained city including clean public lavatories for women, safe drinking water and basic education that even the entire edition of today’s MiD DAY wouldn’t be able to fill up in its pages.
Why then, must valuable man hours be wasted to entertain such proposals when instead this time can be spent to work towards ways and means to make this city more livable? After all, aren’t these the same people who are supposed to represent the city at this important forum where they must, ideally, act as facilitators of change for their people and city? How the city will gain from such renaming projects gain defies logic.
Another point must be mentioned here: These lawmakers conveniently turn a blind eye or chose to remain silent to take up issues that highlight the state of the city’s urban and cultural heritage – even at its two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from the state of ruin within the Elephanta Caves to the vandalism and neglect at CST terminus, and even religious sites like the Banganga Tank (in the Malabar Hill area) apart from several similarly remarkable landmarks that are in desperate need of strong laws and controls. 
Ask any group actively involved in the awareness of such locations and they will rattle off their long-drawn, lonely struggles with government apathy, red tapism and bureaucracy.
It’s a difficult, unpalatable scenario that any concerned, often helpless citizen of this rich, multi-faceted, multi-cultural city must wake up to, with each passing day, and hope for common sense to prevail, somewhere, somehow. It’s the fine art of daily tightrope-walking that we seem to have mastered...
— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY

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