Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Name change politics for dummies…

A few months ago the Indian government passed a constitutional amendment to rename the state of Orissa to Odisha and its language Oriya to Odisha. It may sound like a profound change but there have been many such name changes in India. It is a popular stunt to gain political mileage. Yesterday I found the secret, yet unpublished edition of “Indian politics for dummies” book and here I present to you an extract on City/State name alteration for dummies:

(If your city name has c in it, simply replace c with k and start from step 3)
Find an obscure but Indian sounding name which a very small (0.0001%) minority of Indians and no foreigner will be able to properly pronounce.
TIP: Make it sound like the final word on spelling bee show.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sir Sagar Godbole

“In the grandest ever ceremony held last night, Sagar Godbole  was knighted for his invaluable service to mankind in taking the very noble art of cracking extremely inappropriate and  mistimed lame jokes to far greater heights and shall henceforth be called Sir Sagar Godbole.
Well, hold your horses, don’t start buying me those expensive congratulatory gifts just yet. This is just a hypothetical scenario as of now because owing to their usual lethargy, Her Majesty’s Government hasn’t yet recognised my valuable services (and also because iPad 2 isn’t in the market yet… hehe)
I began wondering about the issue of titles when I registered for an UCAS id. While most forms have the usual Mr/Ms/Mrs/Dr options for “title”, UCAS not only has a dropdown list but also so many options that is scrollable! Take a look at the screenshot below…
Apart from the those visible in the screenshot the list also includes titles like Baron, Baroness, Duke, Duchess, Viscount and various military ranks.

In getting rid of our colonial rulers we also have also gotten rid of this wonderful system of titles and peerages. I am not denying that medieval Dukes and Barons were the 1600s version of today’s Kim Jong Il and that hereditary peerages are extremely unfair because they give you a title because of parents. My point is “who cares about what happened in middle ages?”. Today all the peerages knighthoods (the right to call yourself Sir/Dame Something Something) granted are life-peerages which cannot be inherited and Furthermore, the Queen only symbolically confers the title. The recipients are selected by the democratically elected incumbent government. Hence, today these are no different than civilian honours awarded by other governments, just a lot cooler.

It is incontrovertible that despite whatever alleged negative historical connotations the British honours might have they still sound a lot cooler than the honours awarded by other countries, be it ‘Bharat Ratna’ in India or ‘Order of Temasek’ (Darjah Utama Temasek) in Singapore primarily because these honours do not confer any title.

While these honours do give a monetary award to the recipient, by not conferring a title, they fail in their stated aim of providing recognition for the person for his/her service to the community or nation. Hardly anybody knows that Sunderlal Bahuguna has won the second highest civilian honour in India. It is a telling sign that while most teenagers in India and Singapore do not know who has been conferred national honours in their own countries, they are very well aware that an arrogant scotsman has been knighted for his services to football.

Hence, while I do not advocate returning to the British honours system, I do think that titles should be included with all national honours because only a title and its regular use by the media can bring true “recognition” for the person being honoured. I am sure that medieval India had a lot of titles too. I suggest let us bring out nawab, sardar, mansabdar as life peerages, just without any land grants this time. Nawab Sagar Godbole sounds awesome too, doesn’t it?