Much ado about an Ooru

03 Nov 2006
Posted by Kiran

Back in 1997 when Bombay was rechristened Mumbai and Madras became Chennai, I was puzzled. I asked myself why the politicians couldn't let the popular names be. Why the change?

Now I hear that my hometown is no longer Mysore - it is Mysooru. The Indian Silicon Valley no longer resides in Bangalore - it resides in Bengalooru.

This is going to be quite a change for all of us. For some it may be very hard to stomach. In fact I am going to have a tough time explaining to my clients here in London that the teams working on their projects are no longer based in Mysore but are now in Mysooru - well what the heck, I will just let them continue calling the city Mysore. After all, as the great bard said, what is in a name?

And that is what is going to mostly happen across the country. I would be fooling only myself if I think everyone in India will start using the new names for these cities going forward. There still are those who use the terms "Bombay" and "Madras". Those names have a certain ring to them that the new ones don't possess.

As was to be expected this whole renaming excercise that the Karnataka Government has taken up has kicked up a debate. There are people for it and there are those who oppose it.

However, if we sit down and think about what this name change will achieve, it is clear: nothing.

Apart from entailing the rewriting of thousands, possibly millions, of boards all over the state, this initiative does little more than massage the egos of some so called "Kannada Abhimani"s.

Bangalore was not the name of a city; it was a brand. It was a global brand, one that each Kannadiga could be proud of. People globally recognized Bangalore as India's IT Capital. With the stroke of a pen, Karnataka politics has succeeded in killing that brand.

In fact, there is also a word in English that was fast gaining popularity - "Bangalored" - it is often used to refer to the outsourcing boom. So what will we say now? Bengaloorued?

What we have in front of us is a Branding disaster. Bengalooru has lost out on all the brand value it had up until now. Will Bengalooru be able to create its own brand value? Only time will tell.

At the end, the question we should be asking is: was the change worth it? Was it really necessary? I am sure that there are various arguments on how it will help preserve the Kannada heritage. But, when was the Kannada heritage really in danger? Bengalooru is simply the name of the city in Kannada, while Bangalore was the English version.

I have never seen a German become concerned that in English Germany is spelled as it is. I have not heard of any efforts to rename/re-spell Germany as Deutschland (that is how Germany is called in the German language). They seem to be quite comfortable in the way the British call their country.

Why is it that we Indians always end up making a fuss about such petty things?