If ever you come to a place you’ve never been to, and you hear the names of localities that end with words like pur, para, gunj, ghata, palli, bazaar, nagar, or danga, you can rest assured that you’re in the city of Kolkata.
Each of these words in Bengali means places where people have come together to live. The prefixes to these endings could be as diverse as Jadav, Santosh, Purba and Ali on one hand that convey some sense, to some like Sod, Jaj, Bele, and Bally on the other that mean practically nothing.
My family has moved from one ‘pur’ to another in recent years, but if chance permits we do not mind moving to a ‘gunj’ or may be a ‘para’ for that matter. However, going by the new trend of naming places, I’ve an odd feeling that we would soon be rendered ‘out of style’ with those age-old extensions.
Take Hiland Park for example. It has come up in the locality called Chowkgaria, but ask someone where Chowkgaria is, you’re likely to be staring at a blank face. Mention Hiland Park, and you’ll have anybody directing you.
It’s the same story at South City, Mandeville Gardens, Diamond Enclave and so on, never mind each of them is located at either a gunj or a para or suchlike.
My friend, an old Kolkata hand, feels that the old names, howsoever out of tune, will just not vanish like that. They’ll remain in the reckoning because all the police stations, post offices and similar such entities will continue to use them.
The other reason is Kolkata hasn’t really expanded in the past so many decades, and so there have been no occasions to try out new names for localities.
This however is fast changing and the day is not far when no matter what the police stations are named, people will recognize places with new landmarks like giant housing complexes and shopping plazas. The transition is already under way.