‘Bombay’ meri hai!

On a television programme last week that was debating the controversy over the use of the term ‘Bombay’ by Karan Johar in his film Wake up, Sid and his apology to Raj Thackeray, I said I steadfastly refuse to call the city that has been my karmabhoomi anything but ‘Bombay’.

I was interrrupted by a member of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena – a North Indian – who threatened to thrust `Mumbai’ down my throat and in the heat of the moment I quite forgot what I was saying.

But I still have good reason to continue to call my city  ’Bombay’ and while I have written about this ample number of times in the Mumbai edition of the Hindustan Times (and here I deliberately refer to the city as `Mumbai’), I would like to share my thoughts with a larger readership.

I have been arguing/fighting about this with Bal Thackeray for years. Of course, these days Balasaheb is no longer available for verbal duels. But if he were, I would have asked him again, “So, when are you changing your name to Bal ‘Thakre’?”

For I do not believe he or any member of his family has the right to force the Bombay Scottish school to call itself Mumbai Scottish or Bombay Dyeing to change its name to Mumbai Dyeing until they continue to anglicise the spelling of a name that is plain and simply ‘Thakre’.

But I believe the Thackerays will never de-anglicise themselves — for if they did, they would be just commonplace. So they continue to spell their name as William Makepeace Thackeray did his.

Balasaheb’s father, Prabodhankar Thackeray, was so impressed by the writer of Vanity Fair (who was born in Calcutta) in the 19th century that he decided to fashion his name after this British writer-philosopher. So now when Raj and his cohorts talk about getting rid of colonial hangovers, I think that is rich and insist upon calling Bombay, well, Bombay until the Thackerays themselves begin practising what they preach.

I have been cautioned against openly provoking and challenging the Thackerays on this one by many friends and well-wishers in the past. Perhaps I might have taken their advice seriously and gone over to Mumbai if I had not had a tape in my possession which gives Bal Thackeray away.

I do understand that he had nothing to do with the anglicisation of his unique surname but at least he could have been more honest about his `Mee, Marathi’ kind of policies that Raj is now following so faithfully.

So how do I know he was not very honest? Because during the course of one of my innumerable interviews with the Sena supremo in the Nineties, I was startled to discover that not only did he spell his name in a British-y fashion, he even pronounced the `Thack’ to rhyme with `hack’ – six times on that tape in my possession. And each time I play it, I am reminded about what a fraud parties like the Shiv Sena and the MNS really are.

Nevertheless, there is at least one thing to be said about Balasaheb – in keeping with his `Mee, Marathi’ policy, he did send his children to Marathi medium schools. But not his grandchildren. They went to the best English medium schools (like Bombay Scottish) – though there is nothing wrong with that – and Raj Thackeray’s son has even opted for German over Marathi. What moral authority do the second generation Thackerays then have to impose all sorts of bans on people speaking English and wanting to send their children to convents?

In fact, all along the Nineties, at the beginning of every academic year Shiv Sainiks used to routinely beat up staff and damage property in these `convent schools’ because the nuns and priests would not admit their children when they did not meet the entrance standards for their schools. It was only the refusal of the Bombay Diocese to give in to that kind of pressure despite the damage to life and property that send them scurrying to the `non-convent’ but nevertheless English-medium schools of equally high-standard like the Bombay Scottish and the American International.

I have nothing against that per se – every citizen of this country has the right to aspire for the best for his or her children and the third generation Thackerays should be no different. But don’t the children of other Maharashtrians have equal rights? Or even those of `Mumbaikars’ who may not be Maharashtrians?

So until one or the other of the Thackerays exhibits the moral courage to put an end to this kind of duplicity and makes a start by changing his name to the more home-grown, commonplace `Thakre’, the city I love and which has given me much is Bombay to me in English, Bambai in Hindi and Mumbai when I speak Marathi. And no one can tell me any different.

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  • anurag

    mam, i was also watching that show and i thought that was you,now i finally got it.frankly speaking mns and shiv sena are bunch of hypocrates and what i found amazing is that congress is helping raj to counter marathi votes.ones shekhar gupta had said that the gov of maharashtra is one of the most incomptent gov maharstra ever had but because there is TINA factor so people keep voting them back. don’t you found that all in this bombay and north india bashing the so called cosmopolitan middle class and higher middle class kept mum. be in kolkatta or delhi the middle class always came on front but mumbai keep mum ,they don’t vote and demand more


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    I think this week the results of the Maharashtra elections will lay to rest a lot of ghosts so far as Raj Thackeray is concerned. As for people of Bombay — they were always lazy on election days as far back as I can remember and always a lot more vocal when all that they had to do was give their opinions at seminars and now television channels!


    ajay Reply:

    The supreme court has already made it clear that as per the law the name is changed from bombay to mumbai. so calling bombay mumbai is perfectly legal. By calling mumbai bombay you are disobeying the supreme court. The supreme court has also made it clear that all those names like bombay diocese wil carry bombay as the name as these names were given before the law was passed. My this comment was moderated yesterday and was not published I wonder why?


  • Atul

    Sujata, you have oodles of courage!! Hats off!!

    Bombay/ Bambai / Mumbai has never belonged to Maharashtra. It has belonged to India all along.

    To me its an ubiquitous union territory of sorts that is functioning as a reluctant capital of a state. It is also also the goose laying the golden eggs thereby feathering their nest.

    The bullys would do well to realise that in their myopic turf war, they are slowly killing the goose.


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks. And, yes, you are right. It is my opinion, too, that so long as Bombay remains a golden goose people will keep looking for the eggs. You want to stop them eating those eggs, you have to kill the goose!


  • Anil

    Thack….thack….thack…..thack…..thack…..thack…..(six times you said) ray ? It sounds more like herding sheeps and cows !! That’s what they are trying to do with Marathi Manoos. But why single out Balasaheb and his clan. Kumarwamy of Hardenhalli, turned Belgavi and Bengaluru into unpronouncable cities. The “L” that he wanted in the name cannot be pronounced by people living north of Sahyadri. If I am not mistaken, your Managing Editor, Samar has come close to spelling his surname.
    PS I always wondered whether the song ‘yeh hai bombay meri jaan’ would have rhymed that well with Mumbai ?


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Yes, but I notice many of us (and that includes maharashtrians) are not able to pronounce Samar’s surname correctly . And, no, Mumbai wouldn’t have rhymed so well.


  • Bob Mathews


    I watched the latter part of the TV programme in which you participated and was disappointed that you didn’t snub the MNS bully for his obnoxious remarks.

    But you made up for this with this hard hitting article.


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Well, I am a better writer than a speaker. And, sometimes, in a debate like that it is not always possible to take on bullies like that at the right moment. Though I thought Siddharth Shanghvi did quite well on that score!


  • meena

    The point here is not whether Thackerays call themselves Thakre or not, the important issue for me is that in a free and democratic country, does anyone has any right to tell others what they do, say or wear.

    Even if the entire Shiv Sena clan decides to send their kids to Marathi schools, they do not get the right to ask me where I should send my kids.

    If they want to change the name officially they can do it if it is legally allowed and in due course of time, the new name will become the popular name. I dont think the intention is to preserve Marathis rights (though I have reservatiuons about that too since these kinds of emotions lead to discrimination on to a larger scale) The intention is more for grabbing attention. When huge issues cannot be tackled, focus is diverted to these trivial issues.

    And shame on Karan Johar, who even after being successful bows to such non democratic pressures. Tomorrow if Shiv Sainiks ask him not to caste any Muslim actor or hire any Muslim technician, he will bow to that also. This is more serious than appears. How is this different from dons asking to cast Monica Bedi in films. Karan Johar has let down others as well as his own image. If people of that success bow to pressure what can be expected from common people who anyway live their lives in fear of some or the other goon.

    I admire Bombay Diocese, who perhaps was not as influential or rich as Karan Johar but had the guts and bravery that makes him a much more respectable citizen. And they did back off.


  • Ricky Bhatia

    I too saw the programme on TV and was amazed at the audacity of many “marathi” people. I have lived and have been bought up in Bombay and it shocked me how the hatred against non-marathis has spread.

    Someone remarked that the name has been changed officially so everyone better call it by its name. I want to ask this gentleman and others, when Bombay was officially called Bombay, what stopped you from using this logic and NOT call it by its present official name? If calling Bombay is such a crime now, why was it not a crime to call it Mumbai then?

    Just as many fought to change the name to Bombay, I, in this free country, will fight to have this city officially called Bombay once again. Not only that I will refuse to recognise all other silly renaming sprees and call other cities by their true names, Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore, Pondicherry, Baroda etc.

    I also want to say that the REAL Bombay is what the British have made. Upto Mahim. Rest is all the Indian Bombay. See the difference. With all the funds at their disposal successive powers have only degenerated the city, and now even its name.

    Bombay is unfortunately a DYING city. If the Marathi speaking people dont stop their hatred and animosity then one day it will only be them left over in the city. There is no great city which does not have a cosmopolitan population !!

    The rabble rousers dont know what they are spoiling…..


  • Ricky Bhatia

    Bombay is getting to be the most intolerant city in India. Almost the goonda capital. Almost every day you have instances of goondas (shiv sena/mns) barging into peoples homes and making them “apologise” for different things.

    Last night i wrote a comment how the name mumbai is being shoved down peoples throats, and guess what? That comment has been censored. It does not show up in todays post.

    This censorship is another example of someone who thinks the “local culture” is being “insulted” by comments such as ours……………

    Bombay is dying……


  • http://www.hindustantimes.com Sujata Anandan

    No that’s not the point but I wanted to point out the duplicity of the Thackerays. And `Mumbai’ will stick, i am sure, once they stop thrusting it down our throats


  • Bob Mathews

    This article written by Anand Karandikar and translated from the Marathi by Dnyanada is a MUST READ for all those who are agonised with the SS/MNS antics.

    “Will the Marathi ‘Manoos’ take note of this?”


    *The original article titled “Marathi Manoos he lakshat ghenar ka?” was first published in Saptahik Sakal, March 8, 2008.


  • Diwakar

    I follow with interest your blog even after my shifting from Bombay (nee Mumbai). You are spot on – on the hypocrisy of these politicians – and it pains me that they are actually changing history. Bombay, was called that way by the Portugese which means ‘big bay’ amongst the seven islands that comprised this region. As is quite vogue in every village where there is a ‘gram devata’, the seven islands which were virtually small village hamlets inhabited by fisherfolk, also had their own village deities and one of the Goddesses happened to be Mumbadevi. It is an irony that politicians who do not give a damn to education and history chose to distort facts have renamed the city. To add to this, we have all these ’strong-willed and hard-working’ filmi junta represented by chicken-hearted (sorry, henfolk – i know you are more strong) Karan Johar apologizing.
    The latest change is renaming the state of Orissa to ‘Odisha’ and the language would henceforth be called ‘Odia’. So much for development.

    Best regards.


  • Asmeet Singh Grewal

    As an outsider, who just travels to “Mumbai”, i have an observation to make – Shive Sena / MNS resemble Hitler’s SA brownshirt storm troppers. They are well on their way to achieving what they set out to achieve.

    Kristillnacht any one? The day is not far off….


  • Anand Saxena

    I wonder if the people out there who feel strongly about renaming have considered that they are at times transposing phonetics from one language to another.

    For example, Paris is pronounced Pahree in French, but it doesn’t stop being Paris in English. The Brits are not offended when the French call London Londres. Heck, I’ve been to the UN General Assembly and seen the Indian table with “INDE” on the nameplate. What’s next? We relearn how to pronounce Moscow, Copenhagen, Warsaw natively? Or did we really think this is how they are pronounced?

    I remember in the 80’s, when I was on the highway in Haryana heading towards Delhi, seeing signs in Hindi that pronounced it Deyhali. I am not going to run the Haryanvi Jats out of Delhi for that. Just as I am not certainly not going to call it Kolkotta – that’s the Bengali phonetics. In English, it’s Calcutta and in Hindi it remains Kulkatta.

    I don’t recall there being an issue over calling Thiruvananthapuram Trivandrum. My Keralite friends call it that.

    I might be convinced to call Madras Chennai. At least that’s a real change of name. Rename Delhi Indraprastha and that’s fine by me too.

    After we are done renaming all the cities, we can always go ahead and fight about the common honorific Shri, which those dastardly South Indians insist on pronouncing with the H sound silent. Anybody not catching the sarcasm in the last statement?

    Holy Hesus!


  • Aditya

    Dear Sujata:
    1. I wonder why none of the rival politicians or media persons have never pinned the Thackerays down over this “Thakre” issue.
    2. Why does the country debate so vociferously over Mumbai vs. Bombay, when everyone has happily accepted Chennai, Kolkata…(and if I may correct Mr. Saxena above) I stayed in Thiruvananthpuram for more than a month, it is called just that..I think its only some people outside Kerala who call it Trivandrum, mostly because its easier to pronounce. My friends in South India call the places only Chennai, Thiruvananthpuram..ditto with my bengali friends.. why does “mumbai” invite your ire?


  • ripal mehta

    Afzal Guru is patriot , Baghat Singh/Sadhvi are terrorist

    Afzal Guru ko maafi Sadhvi ko faansi

    Allah is god ,Ram is a fictional character.

    SIMI ,IM are social service org ,RSS,VHP are terror org.

    Kerala CPM declared 4000 Rs/- pension for madrasa teachers from temple funds

    genocide of tamils= srilanka’s internal problem

    Great sivaraj patil compares azfal hanging with common Indian (Sabarjit singh ) in pak. Afzal is human ,Sabarjit is traitor.

    Godhra Train carnage is accident ,gujarat riots are preplanned .

    15% muslims are human ,85% hindus are insects.

    Supporting Majority (80 crores hindus) is Communal ,20 crores muslims are minority (lol population of USA)

    Malegaon blasts are only blasts ,other blasts are not at all blasts , they are just diwali crackers.

    5 muslims died in malegaon are important ,1000s died in other blasts are not important.

    reservations for muslims ,bomb blasts for hindus.

    crores of money for Haj pilgrims, nothing for amarnath pilgrims ,allotting 2 acres of land in kashmir is blunder.

    supporting islamic terrorist is secularism ,killing Indians is patriotism .

    babri masjid is issue(which is actually a ram temple) , 100’s of hindu temples demolished is development.

    If muslims die it is killing ,if hindu dies it is fate.

    hindus should follow rules ,muslims no not need to obey common civil code.

    according to congress

    Sikhs getting slaughtered in thousands = A MISTAKE.
    hindus getting killed in Kashmir = Political problem.
    muslims getting killed by a few hundred = Holocaust.
    Poor protestors getting shot in WB under Left Govt = Misunderstanding.

    Banning Parzania in Gujarat = Communal.
    Banning Da Vinci Code and Jo Bole So Nihaal = Secular.

    Kargil Attack = Government failure.
    Chinese invasion in 1962 = Unfortunate betrayal.

    Reservations in every school and college on caste lines = Secular. Reservations in Minority institutions = Communal.

    Fake encounters in Gujarat [Sohrabuddin] = BJP Communalism.
    Fake encounters under Cong-NCP in Maharashtra [Khwaja Younus] = Police atrocity.

    Talking about hindus and hinduism = Communal. Talking about muslims and Islam = Secular.

    BJP freeing 3 terrorists to save 100 Indian hostages = Shameful
    Congress freeing 4 militants to save just a life of one daughter of I Home minister in Kashmir [Rubina Sayed] = Natural Political dilemma.

    Attack on Parliament = BJP ineptitude. Not hanging Afzal Guru the mastermind despite Supreme Court orders = Humanity and Political dilemma.

    BJP questioning Islam = Communal. Congress questioning Lord Ramas existance = Clerical Error

    These are just few examples, list can go on and on.

    Its time for hindus to wake up or perish.

    At the time of partition 18 % population of Pakistan were hindus, now its not even 1 %, and 8 % population of Afghanistan were hindus now its 0 %. Where have they all gone.

    Tamil hindus are being discriminated and slaughtered in srilanka, no body including India says anything, when muslims were killed in Yugoslavia the world attacked Yugoslavia.

    Rajiv Gandhi sent ipkf ( Indian peace keeping force ) to kill tamil hindus in srilanka.

    Hindus being tortured and discriminated in Malaysia, and Indians happily tour Malaysia.
    Hindu Temples demolished in kazakistan, Russia.

    Hindus call them self educated and they vote for congress, because congress says ( our prim minister actually ) “ muslims have first right on every resources” , hindus are terrorists , armed forces are communal because they say “ram ram”.


  • http://struggleisthespiceoflife.blogspot.com Haresh

    It doesn’t take anyone long to realize (provided that they are ready to acknowledge) that MNS (or for that matter Shiv Sena too) is an example of the height of hypocrisy.

    When will such divisive politics end? I wish MNS too fades away just the way Shiv Sena is probably going to.


    ripal mehta Reply:

    people like haresh are the problem that communal parties like congress and ncp keeps coming back to the power. their thinking is confined till reading blogs and editorials written by congress and ncp mouth piece communal jounalists and they get carried away by them. any party … i mean any xyz party would be better to rule this country and maharastra but not congress ncp.. mr. haresh one day you and i are going to fade away if you keep on voting to congress and ncp… as the saying goes.. one can only wake up a sleeping person..


  • shobhit

    this is ridiculous i m unable to understand what the ‘thakres’ ,oh i made a mistake what actually the socalled ‘thackerays’ are tryng to do by making obnoxious remarks. i sometimes doubt IS MAHARASHTRA NOT a part of india. the response they are getting from the socalled marathimanoos themselves through votes is a wake-up alarm for the ,’tha……….. sorry i forgot u ask balasaab and put it urself, the people from every corner are raising their eyebrows and SAYING’ WAKE UP BALASAHAB THIS IS INDIA AND UR MAHARASHTRA IS ALSO A PART OF INDIA SO U SAY SO AGAIN AND U ALONG WITH UR SUCCESSORS WILL BE OUT OF MAHARASHTRA POLITICS AND OFCOURSE FROM INDIA ASWELL’


  • Delnavaz

    Bombay was built by the joint efforts of the British & many Indian communities such as the Marwaris, Gujaratis, Parsis. Bombay became prosperous thanks to their joint efforts & belongs to India & not jsut Maharashtra. Bombay is dying because of our corrupt politicians. A solution would be to make Bombay a ‘Union territory’. Shiv Sena & it’s supporters don’t realize or care that if they continue their policies of hate, industry & investment into the city will stop. the Mahrathi manoos will then have to migrate to other cities/states & probably get a taste of their own medicine


    Ricky Bhatia Reply:

    Well said !!


  • Bedraj

    This is fantastic… I am personally not sure if this is real… But yes, the Thakres (yes, the nitwitic Thackreys) are not from Bombay!!! They are not actually from Mahrashtra!!!!

    Neither do they represent anything for the Marathi Manoos… They are happy to keep the Marathi Manoos under-developed so that they can rule the them… Unfortunately, like many in India… below the education line… SS and MNS or, a la Uddhav is taking advantage of them.

    Interestingly, Congress, BJP and MNS are keeping quiet just to throw the SS out from the state politics… and SS does not realize that!!!


  • http://heretics-corner.blogspot.com Neel Kumar

    I refuse to give in and say Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata or Udhagamandalam (or whatever the hell the name is now). In Europe, it is common for cities to have different names in different languages and is similarly true in India as well. But when governments are unable to provide drinking water, electricity, decent roads and other such basic infrastructure, they manage to somehow show the world that they are doing their best by changing names. What bull!


  • http://digitalblogindia.in Kunal

    Bombay shouldn’t be called Mumbai by people just because of the pressure from Shiv Sena. People are surely going to rebel and call it Bombay on purpose.

    But on the other hand, why would you call it Bombay. Why should we still have names given to us by the British ? Isn’t it patriotic to call it by an Indian name ?

    If Shiv Sena didn’t exist and some really good and respected politician would have changed the name and not pressurized people to use it, wouldn’t people have said Mumbai rather than saying Bombay.

    Ok but it’s the Shiv Sena which has changed it …but why be a rebel, what’s the use other than proving your point that “you can’t tell us what to do”. I see it as a useless exercise to write blogs about why i call it bombay and why you can’t tell me what to call it.

    Just be patriotic and accept the name…how difficult is it ?


  • vishal potdar

    sujata pls cool down! pls dont get fustrated by thakrays! pls try to learn from your fellow tamilians! yes mumbai tamils are also laught at you! they proudly follow marathi culture and they love “amachi mumbai”!& pls pls dont get pissed of by thakreys!


  • abhi

    Yes congress will be succesful in Manipur and Goa and that will be the glory.
    Congress supporters have already started putting excuses for loss in UP. The fact is that UP is make or break for UPA. if in UP congress doesn’t come at even second position, Rahul’s image will be dented beyong repair. This poll is semifinal for loksabha poll in 2014 and not winning in any major state (UK, Punjab and UP) should make UPA realise that their days are over.


  • http://thepoliticalopportunist.blogspot.in/ abhishek sharma

    Chappell has already been vindicated when he boasted before the Indian tour of Australia that he can demystify the great Indian batting.

    If we look at ourselves, we can call Indian as a sub human civilization at best.
    Compare Indian population and the Nobel prize winner.
    Compare Indian population and Olympics gold medals.
    Indian yearly population growth is equal the total population of Australia.

    There are so many facts to prove that Chappell is absolutely right.
    The problem is not only with what we are taught by parents but it is one aspect of problem. Indian enlightenment never happened and all we gained was due to Western rule. Hindu revivalism also happened due to British rule otherwise Indians would have continued with Sati and child sacrifice.

    It is time for Indians to change their mentality if they want to be the actual super power that they dream about.



  • Abu Ahmed

    Make the children sleep in a separate room since very early years – that will inculcate in them the confidence to handle situations on their own.