Asia/India

Bombay vs Mumbai

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A very good turn of phrase

I have been using two names the city here: Mumbai and the older Bombay. I have been unsure which I should use. The city was renamed Mumbai not by popular demand but by political machination. While the guide books have all switched over to writing of Mumbai (and Kolkotta for Calcutta) not all Indians have.

Still, just because the politically correct do and some Indians do not, it was not immediately obviously which name would be more acceptable to the majority of people that I would talk to out here. Any such doubts were put aside last night. I had been chatting with a group of Indians I met after work. After about forty minutes I suddenly noticed that not one of them had said Mumbai: all had been talking of Bombay. I asked them why this was, given that I had been told off in the office for not saying Mumbai. The room went quiet and all eyes turned to me. Then one man spoke up saying “Why shouldn’t we call it Bombay? It is Bombay. I was born in Bombay, I’ve lived all my life in Bombay and I’ll die in Bombay. @#&! the politicians.”

No more needed to be said. The case was closed. I was to speak of Bombay and Bombay alone. Or at least I thought the case was closed. But no, more followed, nothing here repeatable, as it was explained to me just what they felt about all the politically motivated name changes going on.

Strong passions were aroused. Names remain fraught.