Layers of History I , Bombay’s British Legacy
While traveling in India you quickly realize that there are many layers of history that surround you. This is true whether you are in a street in Bombay or in the Western Ghats. Beneath the glitz of Bollywood, the high rises and the new expressways you can still hear the echoes of the city’s colonial past. Bombay’s rise to prominence is closely associated with the ascendancy of the British in India. Before, it was a nondescript collection of several fishing villages. The names and architecture of South Bombay bear a witness to this colonial legacy.
Although some prominent Victorian and Edwardian structures have been renamed, locals still prefer the old names to the new Indian ones. Also, many parts of Bombay and many of its revered institutions still sport the names from the colonial era. For example, the Grant Road and the Elphinstone Road stations on the suburban Western Railway line, both named after Governors of Bombay, which included the states that are now Maharashtra and Gujarat. Incidentally, there are educational institutions in Bombay still named after Grant ( Grant Medical College) and Elphinstone (Elphinstone College) respectively.
As an arm chair historian, I think this curious phenomenon can be explained by the fact, that people who lived in Bombay in the years that immediately followed the Indian Independence had mostly worked for the many administrative institutions that ran the Colonial Government. The colonial rule was harsh and exploitative in general, for the rest of India but it was beneficial for the city and its inhabitants in many ways big and small. So it is no surprise that the average citizen of Bombay recalled the British years with fondness and was in no hurry to obliterate the British legacy.
The name changes of the last eighteen years or so are the consequence of the changing nature of Indian and especially local politics, a topic perhaps of another blog post.
The Museum in Mumbai
Earlier dispatches from India are here