I've been watching them going around the city last week in police-protected groups to smash all those signboards that do not give the names of shops, institutions etc. large, loud and prioritised in Tamil, preferably Classical Tamil. It won't be long before these same cleansers of the city's signage go around again to wipe clean the names of 52 roads and streets in the city and replace them with the names of those who have contributed to Classical Tamil. And then more sign-painters will be needed to change the addresses of those new signboards that will have to come up to replace those that have been smashed. At the end of it all, these will be the most significant signs of change in the city — and, no doubt, everyone will be happy over these signs of progress.
I'm, however, not exactly happy over the list of 52 roads and streets due to have their names changed. The majority of names to be changed cause me no unhappiness — except that I'll fret over the fact that they'll continue to be used long after they've been changed, particularly if the new names are as alien and unrecognisable to Citizen Raman as the old, but which we've got so used to that we'll find it difficult to change. After all, don't bad habits remain with most of us throughout our lives?
But to get back to my unhappiness. As I was saying, I don't really mind the changing of most of the names on His Worship's list; after all they relate only to roads that led to the residences of middling British officers and merchants whose names were then given to the roads. But I do wish he'd spare a thought and save the names of a few persons who've contributed to the city significantly. Such as:
Anderson Road: If it's the road in Nungambakkam, then remembered here is Dr. James Anderson, who first encouraged the study of the flora and fauna of South India.
Balfour Road: Dr. Edward Green Balfour founded both the Museum and the Zoo and helped in encouraging Islamic Studies by enabling the establishment of the Mohammedan Library and the Madrasa (now on Anna Salai).
Binny Road: How can we forget John Binny, founder of one of the ‘Big Three' in the early industry in the South and whose successors founded the textile industry in South India? He lived on the site where the Connemara now is.
Davidson Street: Acting Governor Alexander Davidson was responsible for the first postal facilities in the South.
Frazer Road: After all, Frazer planned the City's water supply that stood us in good stead for over a hundred years.
Madley Road: J.W. Madley was responsible for pioneering the city's drainage.
Molony Road: J.C. Molony, a civilian, ensured that Madras received a treated water supply.
Moore's Road: Sir George Moore of the Corporation of Madras was responsible for Moore Market and Moore Pavilion of the SIAA where he promoted Madras sport etc.
Norton Road: Eardley Norton was one of the city's best-known and most capable lawyers ever. He was also one of the founders of the Indian National Congress. His father, John Norton, was the Advocate-General of Madras and their kinsman George Norton was also a leading advocate, who launched the petition that led to the founding of the University of Madras.
Stephenson Road: Stephenson was responsible for establishing the Perambur Loco Works from which grew ICF.
Would it be too much to ask that these ten road names be retained, considering the contributions by those remembered in their names?