Rewriting History

September 25, 2015, Chennai

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International Tamil Classical ConferenceWhat is in a name? ‘Nothing,’ the wise would say.


I am not one among them and so I disagree. May be, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; but not a changed name for a road or a street. .

Name is a label, used to distinguish one from another. A street name identifies a street. Street names can usually be changed relatively easily by the Corporation or municipal authorities for various reasons. Sometimes streets are renamed to reflect a changing or previously unrecognized ethnic community. A changed political regime can trigger extensive changes in street names. Some international development can result in renaming streets. Several streets on which South African embassies functioned were renamed after Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment. Street names have also been changed to avoid negative associations. Street names also can change due to a change in official language.

Okay, I agree, the first International Tamil Classical Conference is indeed an important occasion. There are very many ways of celebrating it. But why change road names? I am at my wit’s end!
Not one or two. Fifty roads, in Chennai, named after ‘foreigners’ are to be rechristened. They are to be renamed after Tamil scholars and other significant contributors to the language. Thank God, Ellis Road will not be renamed because he had translated Thirukkural.

Haddows Road, Harrington Road, Sterling Road, Mcnichols Road, Taylors Road, Ormes Road, Greams Road, Montieth Road, Pantheon Road, and Eldams Road are among those that will get a new name. There is history behind every street name. Why rewrite history?

Simultaneous renaming of five scores of roads will result in utter chaos in addresses of residences, schools, shops and the entire stretch of buildings.  Changes will have to be made in name boards, letterheads, cheque books and so on. Already, it isn’t easy to locate a building in this ever-changing city. Why add to the confusion?