A group of pro-Kannada activists has turned an angry lot. It believes BMRCL, the nodal agency implementing Bengaluru’s pride – Namma Metro – is insulting the apparent founder of Bengaluru “Kempegowda” by calling him “Kempegowda”. Just like I called him. Wondering where the insult is? It lies in the missing prefix. Apparently, “Kempegowda” should be addressed as “Nadaprabhu Kempegowda” and so should the metro station named after him be called.
A few years back, when the Union government approved Karnataka’s proposal of renaming the awesome sounding Bengaluru International Airport to Kempegowda International Airport, I had expressed my anger by writing a long post on Facebook explaining how the naming politics will one day turn every circle and junction in Bengaluru into a Kempegowda Circle or Junction. All this hullaballoo when it’s not yet historically established that Kempegowda is the founder of Bengaluru. The ambiguity lies in which Kempegowda is actually the founder. The father who settled in Yelhanka or the son who ended up in Magadi? Which Kempegowda is the founder? The father was called Yelahanka Nadaprabhu while it was the son who built the Bangalore fort.
Names and politics! I sometimes wonder how much we Indians spend every year in naming, renaming and re-renaming our institutions, localities and what-nots! So many victims in Bangalore alone. Bengaluru. Oops!
When Siddaramaiah’s government came into being in Karnataka, Bangalore officially became Bengaluru, Tumkur turned Tumakuru, Mysore turned Mysuru, Chickmaglur turned Chikkamagaluru, Hassan turned Hasana, Bijapur to Vijayapura, yada yada yada.. Chalo! There was some sense in doing that. At least they spelt it the way it’s pronounced in Kannada. Perfectly fine! There was this other time in the history of Bengaluru when the local administration wanted to forget forever that the British built a large part of the few beautiful leftover localities. Brigade Road, the Alpha and Omega of Bangalore’s shopping, was to be renamed Basaveshwara Road. Basaveshwara wasn’t content with Basaveshwaranagar and Basaveshwara Layouts in the city, after all! They weren’t very happy that Lavelle Road was named after a robber. They renamed Cubbon park to Sri Jayachamarajendra Park. Lord Cubbon’s statue wept that year when they did that. Infantry Road became Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Road and Sankey Road became T. Chowdaiah Road, same Chowdaiah after whom Chowdaiah Memorial Hall is named.
So it’s quite apparent that our forefathers, their fathers and our eminent grandfathers just can’t be content with one or two things named after them. A few roads in a few different layouts, of which at least two are named after them, should be named after them. And then a building, a scheme for the poor, a flyover.
Heck! Kempegowda has a bus station, a metro station, an airport, a BDA layout, Kempegowda Nagar near Chamrajpet and a Kempegowda Nagar / Layout in every peripheral zone surrounding core-Bangalore, named after him. At this rate, even Kempegowda would have felt claustrophobic, nauseated and would’ve left the city for good.
It’s a gift to Bangaloreans that their never-to-finish-but-always-proud-of metro project wasn’t named after Kempegowda or anyone else. It was dedicated to its people. They could proudly call it “Namma Metro” meaning “Our Metro”. That’s probably the reason why the project is taking forever to complete. Too many owners spoil the metro!!!
So, even as the metro is nearing completion, half of the localities in Bengaluru that fall in the vicinity of a metro station have lost their identities. Some have gained the identities back. Some others feel more like a person and less like a locality. Some people fought to name stations after the more ‘local’ localities that the stations stand in, than the ‘fancier’ names that BMRCL gave them. The less known Yelachenahalli won over Puttenahalli, Goraguntepalya won over Yeshwantpur Industry. Yet Mahalakshmi Layout had to drop its surname for no great reason. The Mahalakshmi station often makes me feel I’m in Mumbai (Khakee anyone?). And then there’s Vidhana Soudha which HAD to be named Dr B R Ambedkar Vidhana Soudha Station. After all Dr Ambedkar’s statue had sacrificed by moving to a different location for a few years! Imagine telling someone “To reach Vidhana Soudha, take a train to Dr B R Ambedkar Vidhana Soudha Station”. And then, Hosahalli station was named after Sri Balagangadharnatha Swamiji station. It takes more time to say the whole name than the time spent by a train in that station!
So the metro authorities took extreme care when naming these stations. Dr, Sri, Sir, Swami were all taken into account except Nadaprabhu. How could they miss that, I wonder! And how could the protesting activists forget that Kempegowda Bus Station, named so in 1998 from Subhash Nagar Bus Station, has never been called Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Bus Station!!
These are pure political games. They just do it to satisfy their own egos and that of a few auto-drivers, may be! What they don’t get is that Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station, Kempegowda Bus Station and Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Metro Station will be referred to as City Railway Station, Majestic bus stand and Majestic metro station by Bangaloreans. The people that matter will continue to call Bhagwan Mahaveer Road as Infantry Road. Basaveshwara Circle is Chalukya Circle. And Sankey Road is well, Sankey Road! A true-blue Bangalorean will continue to respect the city’s history by using the names that made those places famous in the first place, till they’re around!
Like a great man once said “You can take the Rathore out of Ranjhore, but you can’t take the Ranjhore out of the Rathore”