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Bleeping ‘Bombay’?

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My partner’s play Bombay Jazz is on Sunday and the press is paying attention!

But I noticed a funny little caveat at the end of an article “When Jazz Hit Mumbai” that came out yesterday in Mid-Day

Note: Mumbai has been referred to as Bombay to retain flow of historic events.

Then proceeded to pepper throughout the article:

… Mumbai (Bombay, then) …

To someone from outside India, it seems rather schizophrenic – Mumbai vs Bombay!?

Bombay Jazz

Bombay Jazz

The city has always been a multi-lingual and multi-cultural – historically not even primarily Marathi speaking.

  • If you are English-speaking and typically older than 40 years, it is your beloved Bombay 
  • For the younger generations and Bombaiya Hindi or Marathi speakers, it is your amchhi Mumbai 

Just as multiple realities co-exist in this mad metro that never sleeps, so too do languages and cultures.

So why all the fuss?

Well… it has become politicised and more recently, the censor board in their infinite wisdom have decided that ‘Bombay’ is a ‘banned’ word which cannot be used – at least in a music video!

You got that right… as the city’s name was officially changed, it must be scrubbed from our cultural landscape not just official records!


Yet censoring it in a song is kinda like saying you must use only ‘Namaste‘ for a greeting! You are not permitted to say ‘Hello‘ or ‘Bonjour‘?

So why ‘Bombay’ and not ‘Mumbai’ ‘Jazz’?

Let’s see…

  • Bombay was the city African-American Jazz musicians like Teddy Weatherford called home in the 1930s where they be-dazzled and be-guiled packed crowds at the Taj Mahal Hotel.
  • Bombay was the city Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck and so many other American jazz legends came to wow audiences and jam with local musicians in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Bombay was even the city that Goan and Anglo-Indian jazz musicians were found fueling the sounds of Bollywood in the 1960s to 1980s.
  • And nope, last time I checked, the Hindi film industry isn’t called Mullywood – even after the official change to Mumbai.

Especially as plans are afoot to bring ‘Jazz’ outside of India, what better than to include the name ‘Bombay’ for a musical play about the early Jazzers who helped create the sound of ‘Bollywood’ in ‘Bombay’?

And thus we have the schizophrenic Mumbai (Bombay then)…

Protege and XX

Protegé and cantankerous mentor

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  1. Oh man… maybe I should suggest to my far-away government to fine everyone who says “Munich” instead of “München”… just imagine the revenues that would generate!

  2. It really is a nonsense. Bombay. Mumbai is a made up name anyway. Have you been following bombaywallah on Twitter? He speaks good sense..

    • Haha! That’s true too! So fun though… I wasn’t following bombaywallah on twitter though Sidharth is a familiar figure out ‘n about, his home, our home… and always can be counted on for incisive perspectives with wry humour!

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