Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lost in the past, castes and sentiments?

Following the Pune Statue Fiasco, there have been recent news to change the name of the historic Maharashtrian city of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar. (Interestingly there is another Aurangabad city in Bihar.)

As DNA reports here, there are three plans that the Sena-BJP coalition (the party that rules the civic body in Aurangabad) wishes to execute:
  • rename Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar
  • rename the local Chikalthana airport as Raje Sambhaji Bhosale airport
  • shift the controversial statue of Dadoji Konddev from Pune to a place near the Shivaji museum in Aurangabad.
Though this is good respite for the poor statue that has become a symbol of caste politics, renaming cities just because our history tells us that a city cannot be named after a tyrant is just not the deal! This way we will keep naming, renaming and eventually muddling history and future to create a chaos for the future generations.

Bombay to Mumbai, VT to CST, Madras to Chennai, Bangalore to Bengaluru and so on. Yeah meanwhile, we keep calling our Abhishek > Abby, Manish > Monty et al, very dotingly. (For other nicknames, please check the amazing birthday flex billboards that are displayed by the local politicians and 'Youth parties'.) Politics hasn't sunk to grass roots where it should have. Well, you may say that I do have high hopes.

Overall, I am not sure what we should exactly feel about the whole issue. Since it is repeated so much, so often, the initial utter disgust gave way to anger that has fizzed out over time and left us totally apathetic. That's the state we live in.


Moving on.

Heard of Huckleberry Finn? Yeah the misunderstood but lovable little boy who is Tom Sawyer's friend. One of the finest characters created by the immensely talented and one of my all time favourite writers Mark Twain. Huck's character makes us smile with painful tears at times. Simple, yet reaching the depths of emotion.

Just today I read that the latest copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is modified to remove all instances of the 'N' word. (Here is the NYT link and the USA Today link.) Here is an extract from USA Today that i really liked:

The word (which this newspaper does not print) appears 219 times. In its place, Twain scholar Alan Gribben of Auburn University is substituting "slave."

In the book, the word is not at all used as a derogatory word. It was a colloquial custom back then that was overridden and now it is no longer in use. These days only N's are allowed to call other N's as N's. Look at all the rap songs!

What I feel is, if the country that proclaims itself to be an epitome of democracy censors classical literature so, a hard-lined Indian would surely feel that the censorship in India is right. Well, it is not. It won't stop people from using words / phrases in the open or in the closet or in the universe of their minds! You can't stop people from thinking (Unless you talking about The Matrix, maybe).

That also reminds me of the horrendously funny censoring that is done in the movie subtitles on the English Movie channels over here. I am sure you must have experienced it and laughed about it too! So, if I call you stupid next time, it is up to you to know what I really mean!

On that note, let me sign off this post with a heave of sigh knowing that I have already procured my unadulterated copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! Oh wait, but there is Internet that can also fetch me a copy of the banned Satanic Verses!

As we say on Twitter: #Facepalm.

Update: A nice article on Pune's political games Pune’s endless identity wars.


Unknown said...

I totally agree with you on the re-naming cities thing. It is kind of weird, and I belong to that group of our society that still prefers Bombay to Mumbai.

Even, removing the "N" word from the Tom Sawyer books is not right on so many levels. What gives anyone the right to think that they know better than anyone else?

Anonymous said...

Political correctness is fine and all, but censoring / altering classic literature is ridiculous. Especially, as you've correctly put it, a supposed upholder of democracy and free speech like the U.S.

As for the renaming fetish our netas have, it doesn't serve any purpose. After becoming Mumbai, the city continues to suffer the same civic problems that Bombay did. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet; similarly a gutter by any other name smells equally repulsive, no??

k said...

@Blue - As you have very aptly put, What gives anyone the right to think that they know better than anyone else? Really, this we will change, some will change it further and so on and everything will be altered.

@girish - Well, there are committees and departments that take care after changing a city's name. A lot of money is spent in all this official process. It is an issue of national importance man, how can you divert the attention from such a politically charged issue to something like a smelly gutter that people face daily? How?