Mamata Banerjee and the Bongo in our heartbeats

For once, Mamata Banerjee’s made sense. Why should a state in the East be called “West” Bengal?

WrittenBy:Rajyasree Sen
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Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has frankly had enough. She didn’t fight the Left government for decades, be insulted, physically attacked by the police, get voted as chief minister (sans a political godfather, unlike even Mayawati or Jayalalithaa) of the first non-Left government in 34 years only to wait in queue for her chance to speak at high-level meetings in Delhi. Undone by the W of West Bengal that has relegated her to be the last to speak at these meetings.


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At the inter-state council meeting in Delhi on July 16, Banerjee had to wait six hours for West Bengal’s turn to speak. Banerjee, as anyone who follows politics even remotely will know, does not like waiting.

So she’s done what needed to be done — changed the name of our fair state, West Bengal to Bengal. Bumping us up from the last on the list to number four. We are the first of the Bs now. No more waiting and twiddling thumbs at number 30, while other states voice their needs and problems. On August 2, 2016, the decision was taken todrop the West from West Bengal in English and rechristen the state as Banga (pronounced: bongo) in Bengali and Bengal in English. The state cabinet adopted this resolution, which still has to be ratified in a special meeting of the assembly between August 29 and August 30. And then the Parliament will have to approve the change.

Will that happen? We’ll have to wait and see. When Jyoti Basu had tried to change the name in 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had shaken his finger at him and refused permission. In 2011, when Banerjee had tried to change the name to Paschimbanga, the UPA had refused when it came time for the decision to be ratified in Parliament.

Going by the NDA’s love for Banerjee, Banga may well remain a pipe dream for Didi. There is of course the small fact that a state’s name has been shown to have little to do with resource allocation in such inter-state meetings. But let’s not let facts get in the way of Didi’s decision. Also, even if the name change happens, it’ll be a while before West Bengal exits left. The Centre will now prepare a bill which will be sent back to the Assembly for its inputs. Once the Assembly sends this approved bill back, it has to be tabled in Parliament. Following which it will be sent for assent from Pranab Mukherjee, Bengal’s contribution to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Orissa’s renaming to Odisha took two whole years to complete.

But the question is, is the proposed name of Bengal and Bongo illogical? Actually, far from it. First off, Bengal sums up the state better than West Bengal. Simply because it’s in the East. That we are in the West of East Bengal is hardly reason to keep clinging to the name. It might have made some vague sense if Bangladesh was called East Bengal, but it isn’t. So Bengal it should be.

Now Bongo, for the less informed, is not such a novel idea. The state in Bengali is already called “Poschim Bongo”. Didi is simply striking off Poschim (which means West). Again, sensible – a word you would not usually use in relation to Didi. What is telling is that Babul Supriyo, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Member of Parliament from West Bengal, does not knowthat the state is called “Poschim Bongo” in Bengali. At least as a singer and an Indian who knows the national anthem — remember Rabindranath Tagore’s lyrics? “Dravida, Utkala, Banga” — he should know Bongo is not a musical instrument for us.Shotti, Babul, eto boka kotha, eto buro boyeshe?Also, BJP, how is it that your MP thinks of Afro-Cuban percussion instruments first instead of his mother tongue? Hashtag: #FailedSwadesi

Not that I have anything against bongos. In fact, this is one of my favourite songs: “Bongo, Bongo Bongo,I love it in the Congo…”.

Coming back to my fair home state, contrary to what Supriyo claims, Bangla would be a rotten name. For one, it’s already the name of the languagenative to the state. Also, we’d be adjoining a country called Bangladesh. Bangla, Bangladesh — identifying the places on a map will turn into a drinking game.

Not that Didi’s track record with renaming is any more sensible than Supriyo’s reaction to Bongo. When Bishop Lefroy Road, where Satyajit Ray lived, was being renamed, it was to become Satyajit Ray Sarani (sarani means street in Bengali).At the naming ceremony, Didi grabbed the microphone from the mayor and said she would call the road Satyajit Ray Dharani (dharani means earth). Why did Didi choose Dharani instead of Sarani? Because she said she was tired of having roads named Sarani. Which is as good a reason for any, for Didi’s decisions.

Bottomline: the road is now officially called Satyajit Ray Dharani.

Before this,Banerjee wanted to rename Ballygunge Circular Road after actress Suchitra Sen (because that’s where she stayed during her last years). Unfortunately, Didi had forgotten that she had already renamed Ballygunge Circular Road afterthe pre-Independence era director and actor, Pramathesh Barua. Now 250 metres of the road is called Pramathesh Barua Sarani and the rest is called Suchitra Sen Sarani. Then there was the flyover that was first called “Paroma” and is now simply “Ma”. A government chain of stores is called “Roddur-Brishti” (sun and rain), a tourism hub with a golf course in north Bengal is called ‘MuktaTirtha’ (emancipated pilgrimage).Why? Because Didi said so.

At least with Bongo, the name change makes sense. She could well have renamed West Bengal as Aahamori (which means Dear One) and pushed the state to the absolute top of the state pile, but she didn’t. And we must be thankful for that. While I’m sure the Centre will nix her plans, let’s give credit to Didi where it’s due to her. It’s about time West Bengal and Poschim Bongo lost their illogical nomenclature and moved on from the memories of being partitioned and later, the formation of Bangladesh.

While Didi waits, maybe Supriyo can familiarise himself with his Bengali roots and ask someone what West Bengal is called in Bangla.

The author can be reached on twitter @rajyasree


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