May 19, 2008

The City that was Bombay

When the British left India, Calcutta was perhaps one of the most happening City in India. It had a great history, scholarly people and one of the best literacy rates in the country. 60 years after independence, Calcutta is dead. It was replaced by Kolkata, and that represents everything that went wrong with the City. You might ask what's in a name? Well, there is nothing in the name, and that is the whole problem. Whenever a City's name is changed, the following things are at play - (1) The government is bad enough to develop the state, and hence it resorts to these kick-out-English-in-comes-Hindustani stunts, (2) The government is also playing the regionalism game here by using a name in local language, and hence creating a vote bank of locals for the themselves, even at the cost of their state being branded anti-nationalist and against the unity of the country, (3) It is a symbol of one's preference of locals over cosmopolitans. And these are the reasons why Kolkata could never match Calcutta irrespective of all the efforts by the IT Czars and the government.

Some people refuse to learn from history and Bombay is forced to make way for Mumbai. Bombay is everything that represents India's advancement in Finance and Industries. Once it is dead, Mumbai would never be able to match the splendor of the City. Mumbai would become another Kolkata, a City known for its monuments, and traditions, a City that is a must visit who wants to see the India's glorious past, a City from the history books rather than from Business Magazines, a City that would stop its growth, and put all its energies into preventing its decay. And once it decays, it would be known as another Antique City.

So where does this leaves us? This leaves a scope for another City to come forward, this leaves a room for another Shanghai to leapfrog Beijings of the World. And the City which might take the lead would be Delhi, for the simple reason that it has been known as Delhi for more than 60 years. I am surprised that no other State has taken the lead to call all the companies that are reeling under political pressure and sky-high rentals in Mumbai. It makes sense to pay even exorbitant amount in a City for the future, but not Mumbai. Mumbai is being pulled back by its political class, and its only a matter of time when it joins Kolkata.

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