Change in Atlas and Nostalgia
As the train leaves Siliguri towards Assam, neither can I see Bhutan nor Bangladesh; still I realise that we are passing through the "Chicken's neck" with the former country in the left and the latter in the right.

ByKajal Chatterjee

Updated on 1 Mar 2021, 12:06 pm

(PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

(PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

The other day as I was searching the closet to locate a thing, an old dilapidated atlas popped up from nowhere! Way back in the early 1980s, this was the first atlas of my life during school days! I vividly remember how I used to minutely study each and every detail within each map -- be it of Madhya Pradesh or Manipur, Mozambique or Mongolia! Each and every village, town, river, lake and what not! So whenever we used to venture on a tour to Kashmir, Maharashtra or Meghalaya; I could easily visualise through which particular area of the Indian map we are presently passing through, providing the journey a new dimension! As the train leaves Siliguri towards Assam, neither can I see Bhutan nor Bangladesh; still I realise that we are passing through the "Chicken's neck" with the former country in the left and the latter in the right --- both not at a far distance! Again in imagination, India and Indonesia seem to be oceans apart geographically; but a introspective look at the South Bay of Bengal map will clearly reveal that the North-Western tip of Indonesia's Sumatra is almost at a "hand shaking" distance from the southernmost island of our Nicobar! How could I get my first lesson on a concept named Wet Desert had I not noticed a large area of "dashes" signifying the water bearing identity of Rann of Kutch! Indeed without this first atlas of my life, my interest and knowledge revolving geography would have remained very very scant!

So when that dilapidated "antique" atlas  reappeared in front of my eyes, naturally a deep sense of nostalgia grasped me instantly!

As I was leafing through the pages, I was amazed to see how the world has changed in the last three and half decades either politically or in nomenclature or status.

Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh were still many years away from giving birth to Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Telengana, respectively. Raipur, Ranchi, Dehra Doon was enjoying the status of mere provincial towns only! Though the boundary of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Goa are still maintaining their status quo; but during the period of my atlas, they were designated as Union Territories with Daman-Diu attached with Goa! Similarly, where is Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kozhikode, Odisha, Prayagraj of today! It is Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Bangalore, Calicut, Orissa, Allahabad all the way! But the interesting thing which I witnessed this time. Though Pondicherry has turned "Puducherry" very recently, yet in the atlas of early eighties the name "Puduchcheri" is in brackets following "Pondicherry"!

Where is Uzbekistan, Armenia or Ukraine! Rather almost the whole of Central Asia and eastern Europe form a large green patch named USSR! Yugoslavia is still making its presence felt without any separate identity of Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia! Czechoslovakia is still an united entity! No separate sovereign dots of Eritrea or East Timor as well. And amidst this ocean of fragmentation of political boundaries and birth of new countries or provinces, the only exception remains the disappearance of the line between East and West Germany!

With Bonn losing its capital status following unification of Germany to an united whole, Lagos lost the same status after the Nigerian capital shifted to Abuja. Burma and its capital Rangoon have lost all practical relevance officially with the name of our eastern neighbor getting changed to Myanmar. Rangoon is today not only Yangon; its capital status has also yielded place to Naypyidaw! Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia!

Now these changes have not happened through the hand of God! So automatically the history behind these changes in political geography come naturally in mind. While there has been sane changes like promotion of Mizoram into a full fledged state, birth of Uttarakhand for relieving the administrative burden of a large Uttar Pradesh  or creation  of Naypyidaw as a fresh capital city revolving around  State purposes only; the disintegration of Yugoslavia preceded extraordinary blood bath and ethnic cleansing. Interestingly what a contrast between the disintegration of Czechoslovakia and Andhra Pradesh! While the South European Republic separated into two sovereign entities silently despite separate ethnicities; people of the same ethnicity fought a bitter fight among themselves prior to the birth of merely a separate province named Telengana despite remaining in the same country!  And names are getting changed at the drop of a hat following local sentiments (Kolkata to Mumbai to Alappuzha) as well as with a clever eye on distorting a particular phase of Indian history (Prayag Raj to proposed Karnavati)!

The exceptional story of reunification comes from Germany only proving that countries separated artificially through political lines hold chance of getting united again like North and South Korea. But despite all rhetoric of “advancement”,  the fact remains that race, religion continues to remain a disintegrating force with demands of more and more fragmentation coming from Darjeeling Hills to Scotland to Catalonia to Palestine.

Let it be hoped that people try to get identified as human beings only with the concerned authorities acting equal to people and culture of all demography. And if at all disintegration gets demanded, then the solution be arrived at through a civilized plebiscite as displayed by Canada (Quebec) and UK (Scotland) and the result accepted honorably by all.

 

First published:1 Mar 2021, 12:06 pm

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Kajal Chatterjee

Kajal Chatterjee

Special Contributor, KOLKATA, West Bengal

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