I have often wondered why roads are named after people who deserve to be among the stars, not under wheels, footwear, paws and hooves. Tiwariji – never asked his name – had told me why over a decade ago, and I tend to agree with him now.
The rotund, diminutive Tiwariji ran – hope he still does – a ramshackle eatery close to the first traffic square on the road somewhat perpendicular to the entrance of Lucknow’s Charbagh Railway Station. The eatery was on the route I often took from the Hindustan Times office on Ashoke Marg to my rented house at Motinagar. It’s timing, almost 24 hours, was convenient for my dinner around 2 am.
Tiwariji’s ‘special arhar dal’ was heavenly. He discovered the dish when a pan full of malai accidentally fell on a patila of arhar dal fry. He added a few ingredients to make arhar dal malai maar ke his hottest dish, perfect with tawe ki roti and onions or curd.
Nothing else that Tiwariji’s eatery offered was worth trying, but that’s not what this post is about.
“Kissiko izzat se beizzati karni ho toh uska naam koi sadak ko de do (If you want to show disrespect to someone with due respect, just lend a road his or her name),” he said while serving me an extra ladle of his special dal one night. We were discussing the Uttar Pradesh fetish for naming this or that road after so and so.
Back home in Guwahati, Tiwariji’s words rang in my ears the other day when I saw a dog mounting on Mother Teresa…oops, Mother Teresa Road. Four years ago, this road from Zoo-Narengi Tiniali to Forest Gate used to be known as Geetanagar Road.
A few seconds later, a driver rolled down the window and shot out a dollop of phlegm close to the divider. Was the name game driven by the Assam government’s dislike of Saint Teresa?
A couple of days back I spat on Gopinath Bordoloi near the Guwahati Press Club. I couldn’t help it; the paan a friend had offered was too strong for me. I knew Assam’s first Chief Minister – wherever he was – didn’t mind; millions before me had spat on GNB Road named after him.
GNB, though, was more fortunate than Mahatma Gandhi. Stretches of the footpath along the road named after the latter – otherwise Guwahati’s answer to Mumbai’s Marine Drive – are moot points. Moot in Assamese slang is piss.
Streams of the smelly piss invariably trickle down from the footpath onto MG Road. Did the Father of the Nation deserve this? We might have to go for a planchette and ask Morarji Desai.