Thursday, November 21, 2013

On a historical track.

The good citizens of Bangalore were zapped out of their wits when they made the rude discovery that their city railway station had been rechristened into ‘Krantiveera Sangoli Rayanna’ railway station. The historically challenged went: ‘Krantiveera, who?’ The socially hyperactive ranted that the name was way too uncool. They would have perhaps preferred Deepika Padukone Junction or Rahul Dravid Pavilion!

The fact is, Sangolli Rayana, has done far more for posterity than Deepika or Jammie. An 18th century warlord, he was one of the first southerners to take on the might of the British even before the First War of Independence.

That’s why, in my book, the renaming gesture is highly laudable. The trend of celebrating people who created history started in the 1950s when Nasser labelled the Cairo Railway Station as Ramases Station (after King Ramases II, the greatest pharaoh of Egypt). In our country, Kolkata took the lead by naming several metro stations after Bengali heroes like actor Uttam Kumar, painter Jatin Das, poet Nazrul Islam, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the revolutionary Khudiram Bose.

In times when public memory is really short, the idea of immortalizing national icons seems irresistible. Had Maharashtra not named the Kurla station as Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, I am not sure how many people would care to remember him. At least this way there’s a remote chance of someone googling the old man’s name while surfing possibly on a Shatabdi Express.

To Maharashtra also goes the credit of keeping the hallowed names of Chhatrapati Shivaji (Victoria Terminus in Mumbai) and Chattrapati Shaju Maharaj (Kolhapur station) alive. Bihar is another state that remembers its illustrious sons through railway stations. Passengers to Aurangabad will recollect Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Bihar’s first deputy chief minister and visitors to Patna cannot forget that the city’s main terminal is dedicated to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of the Republic of India.

Goa holds the credit of naming a station after traveler Vasco da Gama. While Delhi has the only one named after a Sufi saint – Hazrat Nizamuddin. Thankfully, the Gandhi family hasn’t yet woken up to the possibilities offered by central stations. Else they would have hitched their dynasty wagon to that branding possibility long, long ago.