Name Game: Will Bangla Be More “Sonar” Than West Bengal?

Social Commentary

Name Game: Will Bangla Be More “Sonar” Than West Bengal?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


ack in 1991 the New York Times’ correspondent Serge Schmemann roamed the streets of Leningrad asking people what they wanted the name of their city to be changed to and why. Or should it be changed at all? In an open vote the people of Leningrad voted for change, for the third time in a century – the city had earlier gone from St Petersburg to Petrograd and finally, in 1924, after the death of Lenin, had been named after the leader.

Of all the people Schmemann quoted, only one person understood the bureaucratic implications of the process. A police officer, who knew the cost of such an immodest initiative. “It’ll cost a lot of money to change the name, and at the same time children are dying in hospitals,” he said. In changing the name of Leningrad to Saint Petersburg, Russia spent approximately 150 million rubles. That’s roughly 163 million rupees.