Posted by: adventuressetravels | January 17, 2012

Istanbul not Constantinople

Bombay or Mumbai, Calcutta or Kolkata  Chennai or Madras.  What is the deal with names of cities changing?  I mean, sure it happened occasionally when there was a war or some major upheaval but this was IndiaEven British occupancy ended peacefully and that had ended almost 60 years ago.

When I got my ticket to India I’d never even heard of Kolkata.  When I realized that it was in fact Calcutta, India’s former capital, I knew exactly where it was.  But why did my ticket say Kolkata?

“Why did they change the name from Calcutta to Kolkata?”  I had been wondering it since I bought my plane ticket.

Antarin, my host smiled.  Kolkata was the Bengali name.  The British couldn’t pronounce it right so they had started calling it Calcutta.

But even Antarin wasn’t sure why they had officially changed the name.  “Calcutta is what you call it in English, when you’re speaking Hindi you can say Kolkata.”

Curiously enough when I do try to say Kolkata often Indians will correct me.  It’s the same with Mumbai, Indians say Bombay.  Residents of the city even call it by its former name.

A month and a half in India and I’m still not quite sure what’s politically correct or even proper.  There are some issues where Indians are divided, love versus arranged marriage, the caste system, but I have not met anyone staunchly opposed to calling the cities their old names.  There are so many more pressing issues in India, the litter problem, overpopulation, or poverty for example, that it boggles the mind that the government would waste its time and resources changing something so trivial as a name.

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