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What's in a name?

Ranjona BanerjiAre they true, the rumours that someone wants to rename Shivaji Park after the late Bal Thackeray? Sitting here in Delhi (or more accurately, Gurgaon) it is possible that distance has affected one’s hearing. Shivaji Park, correct me please if I am wrong, is named for the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj? And the Shiv Sena also took its name from the great Maratha leader? And when the Sena was in power in the state government, it named several city monuments after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj? Now a park named after Shivaji, which also has a famous statue of Shivaji on a horse, will be renamed Bal Thackeray Udyan? The mind boggles. What happens to the statue of Shivaji? It is moved to Bhau Daji Lad?

Statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at Shivaji Park in Dadar
Irreplaceable: Statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at Shivaji Park in Dadar

You can tell that this idea is a non-starter. Shivaji cannot and must not be uprooted, especially not by a man who was such a great admirer of his. Would Bal Thackeray himself approve? The one crore 17 lakh and 56000 experts who mysteriously appeared on television after he passed away might know the answer but I would hazard a guess that he would not.

Chhagan Bhujbal, once a Shiv Sainik himself, had an excellent idea when he said the mayor’s bungalow should become a Thackeray memorial. Many Sainiks including Bhujbal have been mayors of Mumbai. It’s just opposite Shivaji Park and is a large area. Plus something needs to dwarf the aesthetically unappealing monument to Veer Savarkar just down the road. Also, the mayor’s bungalow is far enough away from Chaitya Bhoomi to not compete with the BR Ambedkar memorial. The narrow stretch of Shivaji Park is rich with egos and I’m not talking about Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.

(It will take more than a mere column to explain why Cricket needs a massive memorial at Shivaji Park and even in Gurgaon, murmurs have reached me about the imminent demise of Indian Cricket.)

There’s also the matter of a statue for Bal Thackeray, which is surely a must. The statue can be at Bandra East near his home Matoshree, towering above all the people who drive into south Mumbai from the airport or go to work at the Bandra Kurla Complex (I know of no other reason why south Mumbai people should be found in the suburbs). It needs also to be big enough to be seen from an aeroplane. A few miles down, there will be a much-discussed statue Chhatrapati Shivaji dominating the sea and air space at Girgaon Chowpatty. There will however be no jostling for attention between the two as each will be supreme in their own spaces. Heaven forbid that Bal Thackeray and Shivaji Maharaj be made to compete for attention in Mumbai.

We can’t rename the airports and stations, especially in case they are already named after Chhatrapati Shivaji. A mere road will not suffice and a flyover seems churlish. Ownership of Mumbai and its open, closed and other spaces by politicians and great leaders is no secret any more. Symbolically and metaphorically, how does one own Mumbai without renaming the city itself, once again?

I have found the answer to this problem in Haryana which proves that travel even to barbaric areas opens the mind. It requires some renaming of politicians but as we all know, our politicians love renaming even if it is not usually their own names. The chief minister of Haryana is Bhupinder Singh Hooda. All available and desirable land is under the Haryana Urban Development Authority, that’s HUDA. Get it? Anyway, as a driver pointed out to a friend: “Look at this Hooda, he owns everything. Everywhere you look, the signs say HUDA.” My friend did not have the heart to correct him.

So there you have it: every politician can change their name to Mooda and all Mumbai’s one million authorities can be collectively called MUDA. And all statues, parks and everything can be named MUDA.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist.You can follow her on twitter @ranjona 

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