Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Small Town Psyche

Wear your Kafka cap for a fleeting second. Metamorphosize into that little ant crawling up that speck of saccharine on that teensy piece of cake lying carelessly on the floor, just behind that forgotten dustbin, positioned near that dark brown door next to your kitchen sink. And ask yourself one question: would anyone, I mean ANYONE, even care about your existence?

Well, that’s the story of the small town in this cold, callous world. Most of them are condemned to lead a lifetime of anonymity in distant nooks and crannies untouched by the whimsical rays of limelight. Quite naturally, small towners, as a species, somehow always have this inner mojo to ‘get noticed’. The accent, the kooky dress sense, distinctive guffaws and an appetite for setting inane records are offshoots of this desire for undue attention.

Thankfully, several itsy-bitsy settlements in America have figured out an effortless way of getting the recognition they crave for – just choose an unusual name!

Here are some stellar examples: Ding Dong, a community in Bell County, Texas, got its 5 minutes of fame when Ripley’s Believe it or Not featured the township for its oddly amusing name. Boring in Oregon was originally named after William H. Boring, an early resident. But when the city signs started appearing on the highway as ‘Boring Oregon City’ it evoked a national chuckle. There’s been no turning back, ever since.

The level of interest garnered by weirdly named towns has inspired many more to join the bandwagon. So for every Why in Arizona, there’s a Whynot in North Carolina. For every Hooker in Arkansas, there’s a Dickey, waiting somewhere in Maine. And for every Gravity in Iowa, there’s a certain Uncertain lurking in the horizon, in Texas!

Although city slickers might feel a tinge of cringe while picking such names, small towners don’t seem to share this sense of shame. Otherwise why on earth would two precincts (one in Wisconsin and the other in Illinois) proudly call themselves Embarrass? May be there’s a lesson here for our Jhumritalayas. May be it’s time for villages to rechristen themselves as Narak, Badnaam or something edgier?