The Gau-Guwa confusion


The Gau-Guwa confusion

Swapnil Bharali | October 08, 2018 13:09 hrs

The honourable Gauhati High Court (GHC) has asked a pertinent question and its confusion is justified given that its own nomenclature bearing the word “Gauhati” is in direct conflict with its location which is Guwahati.

To answer its question with as much clarity as possible, I would venture to say that Gowhatty (British era) became Gauhati (post British era) and remained like that for a long time – through the mid-1990s if memory serves me right. This was during those times when Kolkata was Calcutta, Mumbai was Bombay and Chennai was Madras. And then, suddenly it became fashionable for respective state governments to shed the British colonial tag and become earthier. From the current point in time, it would not be wrong to say that all these places – Guwahati included – saw their names changed to their local epithet.

The point of confusion for the honourable GHC may be quickly cleared by drawing a comparison. The state high court located in Chennai continues to be called Madras High Court and the one in Mumbai remains Bombay High Court. So there you are …

The confusion raised by the GHC with regard to “Gauhati” continuing to feature in the names of institutions is perhaps something of a bureaucratic hassle that most of these institutions haven’t bothered to grapple with. One can never contend with the bureaucratic red tapism that one might have to encounter with a simple application for the change of name of say, Gauhati University. To add to that is the change of the spelling of these various institutions in their various bank accounts, bounced cheques thereafter et al and one could end up confused way beyond the current confusion.

While the predicament of these institutions and their inertia to rename themselves is understandable, what is amusing is that of the four political constituencies in the city, two continue to be called Gauhati – Gauhati East and Gauhati West. The change of the city’s spelling was clearly an official decision of the then state government and yet, it is surprising that the same government did not both to complete the task and rename these two constituencies. The GHC’s confusion today is perhaps due to this.

But then, what’s in a name as they all say?

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