Shakespeare famously wrote “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet’. I agree totally – I flew from Delhi to Hyderabad and back to Delhi last week on a short business trip. And the journey was not any sweeter because I flew from Indira Gandhi International Airport to Rajiv Gandhi International airport and back to Indira Gandhi International airport.
Before the fancy new airport came up, Hyderabad had its airport in the center of town at Begumpet. Its domestic half was named after NT Rama Rao, while the International part was named after Rajiv Gandhi – legacies of the TDP and Congress regimes. Since the Congress was in power when the new airport was opened, Rajiv Gandhi survived at the cost of NTR. And with the recent change of Governments, at the Center and the State, there is a call to rename the airport after NTR. I am wondering how that will pan out as the city lies in Telengana – and in due course the new, truncated AP will get its own airport – to be named after NT Rama Rao??
There are 120 or so airports in the country, (I was surprised at the number), although many of these are not be operating flights. Of these, twenty have been elevated by christening them with unique names. Some of these are historical or spirtual figures of the region such as Chhatrappati Shivaji (Mumbai), Swami Vivekananda (Raipur, I could not get the connection!), (Kushak Bakula Rimpoche at Leh) Raja Bhoj (Bhopal) and Devi Ahilya (Indore), Birsa Munda (Ranchi), Kempe Gowd (Bangaluru), Sri Guru Ram Dass at Amritsar) while many of the others are from the freedom movement (Vallabhai Patel at Ahmedabad, Babasaheb Ambedkar at Nagpur, Lal Bahadur Shastri at Varanasi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at Kolkota, Gopinath Bordoloi at Guwahati). Gandhi and Nehru have been spared from this particular honor!
But it is obvious that in recent times, political groups and regional chauvinism have played a part. Along with Indira and her son we have airports named after Biju Patnaik (Bhubaneshwar) and Chaudhury Charan Singh (Lucknow) and I remember well the debates and counter debates that resulted in the last naming. And why do I see a new set of namings in the offing? I do wish that like the decision on memorials in Lutyen’s bungalows, this Government would set a healthy precedent and stop naming things – be it airports or schemes – after anyone!! Because, in the end “what’s in a name?”