A Love Story

First Published in Different Truths

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Despite the Bard’s declaration, and that line[1] being one of the most popular among the literati-glitterati, cab drivers fail to appreciate it. If I think of one place, and name another because after all in the spirit of the bard— one name or another, how does it matter— they get angry and scold me! Of course, in all justice, they may not be familiar with Shakespeare. And I would be a Mary Antoinette[2] think-alike to bank on their familiarity. You do know the story of Mary, who asked the peasants to be given brioche[3] (not cake) instead of bread, when they did not have food — that was right before the French Revolution?

It is interesting to see how the Bard’s creation Juliet Capulet addressed this question — what’s in a name? She had fallen in love with Romeo, from the family of Montague, the sworn enemy of the Capulets. She was questioning the human construct of enmities between two families. Now, the funny thing is when I was in university, more than three decades ago, I had questioned the construct of languages and beliefs — why is an A called as such and not a B? I was told if people took my stand, they would need to re-invent the wheel! But getting back to Juliet — she was questioning constructs that her family believed in. I was questioning constructs that humanity believed in because all of humanity was my family. We all originated in Africa — that is an undeniable fact — and walked out to populate the whole world. Eventually, I agreed reinventing a wheel would halt progress and digress towards a world which might be difficult to live in. We are so habituated to the use of wheels and gears that accepting them as such is probably the best way to go forward.

Having matured enough to accept languages and wheels, I am now confused why historical names and constructs are being called into question in the current world. It started with my being told I was misspelling Calcutta.  Calcutta was given its name by its founder Job Charnock. Oops, I forgot, academics said Job Charnock had not founded Kolkata and it was self-made. Bit confused by that one because, I thought history cannot be altered. Where I live now, the population — who may be unfamiliar with the bard and therefore regard my confusion over names with irritation— agree that it was founded by a colonial. My confusion about names sets in because so many things are named after the founder that it can get as confusing as roads named after peach tree in Atlanta[4]. Of course, I have read in novels and in historical texts that the Orang Laut[5] or Malay boatmen actually populated Singapore along with pirates of varied origins before the advent of the colonials and piracy has always been a multinational profession… Though I am a little confused again about the roles of both, pirates and colonials for obvious reasons.  But getting back on track…

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[1] Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare, Act 2, scene 2 . https://doorshakespeare.com/general/whats-in-a-name/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette

[3] Brioche, a rich bread with eggs. In French, she asked the hungry peasants to eat brioche https://www.britannica.com/story/did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake

[4] https://www.gpb.org/news/2018/08/06/whats-in-name-why-everythings-called-peachtree

[5] https://www.visitsingapore.com/travel-guide-tips/about-singapore/