Why this sudden haste to change the name? Must we believe that it was just to jump the alphabetical queue a few places, or is it the mere whim of a lady who is now leading this red-ravaged land towards the path of once-fair Albion with Kolkata terraformed to Londinium?
Of course, there are the questions of historicity, justification(s) for the otherwise avoidable expense, or whether the constitution should be amended to mandate referendums when such issues trouble a working democracy. Those are issues for the acclaimed experts and the so-called civil society (which is increasingly meddling in public affairs: Singur-Nandigram-Nayachar-Lokpal … with or without popular mandate) to decide. Then again, history tells us that this land was christened Bangāl (বঙ্গাল) only in Akbar’s time by Abul Fazl (?), whence presumably Bāngla (বাংলা) — for Bāngālā (বাঙ্গালা) begins appearing in the literature not long after that. Akbar died in 1605, merely 400 years ago; what did Bongs call their own land or language before that?
History and economics of name change, including the potential political benefits, if any, are best left alone. How do YOU, gentle reader — if you are a Bong (“hold still for a while if you are Bengal born,” as Michael Madusudan Dutt had put in his oft quoted self-epitaph … “জন্ম যদি তব বঙ্গে, তিষ্ঠ ক্ষণকাল !”) — refer to it? When it comes to matrimonial issues, I have often heard Paśchimbanga (পশ্চিমবঙ্গ) …
“Why did you pick a Bāngāl (বাঙাল) bride; did you find none from Paśchimbanga?
But, then, you don’t look for a bride every day, and use the government-sponsored formal title — Paśchimbanga — even less. We do say ‘West Bengal’ once in a while when talking to people outside Bengal or when speaking in English, for that is a long standing English calque of Paśchimbanga. Those who refer to their respective spouses (is that the approved plural, or is it more likely to be ‘spice’, as in ‘… of life’?) as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ instead of স্বামী and স্ত্রী, use West Bengal more often than I do; I prefer Bengal without any prefix or suffix.
Normally, I call it Bānglā (বাংলা), so did Jivananada Das and a host of others, and, yes, you too. And, though our good neighbours had stolen our name (that was broad daylight robbery, if there ever was one!) and added a suffix to make it sound sovereign, we too refer our mere province of a land as Bangladesh (বাংলাদেশ) sometimes …
“Are there no macho men in Bangladesh (বাংলাদেশে কি কোনো পুরুষমানুষ নেই)?”
And, had any of you, if you were born well after Iswarchandra Vidyasagar or Michael Madhusudan Dutt, referred to this highly provincial land of ours ever as Banga (বঙ্গ) or Bangabhūmī (বঙ্গভূমি)? If not, why did the select all-party committee that Ms Mamata Bandyopadhyay speaks of ever consider those options? And West or Paśchim of what; where is the point of reference for this East Coast province of ours?
Having written this much I realise that I have been guilty of constructing too many sentences that end in question marks. It is a hallmark of amateur writing, we are told, but that is what Bengal is – amateurish and full of question marks.