Name-game and whom to blame

Vikram Kanwar

THAT change is the law of nature appears to be fast catching up with Indian cities. The day Allahabad became Prayagraj, two of my friends intensely debated media reports that even Shimla could be renamed as Shyamala, derived from the local shrine of Shyamala Devi, Goddess Durga.

While one harped on getting rid of the ‘useless’ Raj legacy — the British changed the name as ‘they found it tough to pronounce’ — the other argued that Himachal’s capital city had more pressing issues that required immediate attention, like water scarcity, traffic congestion and haphazard growth. Planned to house 25,000 people, Shimla already has a population of over 2.5 lakh and constructions on its periphery appear never-ending.

The two then got all charged up. Why not toe the nationwide trend of taking pride in Indian culture, argued one, and the response to that: why not use the money to be spent on rechristening to feed and educate the countless who needed assistance?

The name-game kept playing on my mind as I was reminded of an incident where I ended up paying someone else’s water bill only because our houses in a Shimla suburb bore the same tag — ‘Kanwar Niwas’. Most houses on the city’s outskirts are known by their owner’s surname but in this peculiar case, the match was too similar to differentiate.

Feeling cheated the way I was tricked into paying someone else’s bill, I blasted the postman the day I encountered him next. He fired back even before I could complete: ‘How am I to blame? There are four houses with a similar address within 300 square metres of yours. You better change your house name, else such gaffes will continue to shock you!’

Not holding back, he retorted that I better take solace in the fact that bill wasn’t ‘that big’ as people had mistakenly ended up paying hefty amounts too. He failed to see my logic and I couldn’t grasp his. We countered each other for quite some time till he, none the wiser, sheepishly grinned and walked away saying he had letters to deliver, leaving me behind to face a crowd that was attentively trying to figure out who was at fault.

I explored what could be done to recover the bill amount, but since that meant visiting local offices, I thought it wise to let it be. So, what’s in a name? A lot indeed. Another lesson learnt: don’t always focus on the name. It is prudent to spend a moment to look at the figures too, in this case the meter number.

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