Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Ever since I came across this place called Hijli I used to always wonder about its history, especially how it might have got its name. I always get surprised at the ingenuity of people who give names of places. Across the country there are places whose names would evoke awe, bewilderment, astonishment, frustration and so many other mixed reactions. A name like “Dehri-on-Sone”, in Bihar, is a very amusing one. It declares the exact geographical location of the place. No doubt that the name has been given by the Britishers, who have named many places in England in the same manner. It’s like some South Indian and Marathi names where the home town is appended at the end of the name. Then there’s a place called Narayan-Pakuria-Murail, a station on the Howrah-Kharagpur South Eastern Railway line. The Indian Railways Authority had to somehow squeeze in the entire name in a single line. It’s an example of peaceful coexistence. Looks like the local politician had to please the residents of all the three villages, Narayan, Pakuria and Murail, when the name of the station was chosen. There are the Hallis, Palyas and Pets in Bangalore, Pallis, Paras, Pukurs and Talas in Calcutta, Vihars and Baghs in Delhi and so on. The bigger names in Bangalore have been abbreviated to give some relief to your tongue. Otherwise it would have been a real feat every time you say Bannerghata-Taverekere-Madiwala Layout in place of BTM Layout. People in rural Bengal aren’t that much speech efficient to call NPM instead of Narayan-Pakuia-Murail. Bombay has Bhandup, Borivili, Mulund, Ghatkoper and many other places each of which has been chosen with the choicest permutations of consonants that can make any newcomer stammer the first few times. The Britishers did understand the pains of pronouncing names like Udaghamandalam or Thiruvananthapuram. But new-age Indians believe in no-pain-no-gain policy and hence prefer to take the pains for the sake of pride in having a real big name. This reminds me of Utpal Dutt who had fascination for mouthful names like Dhurandhar Bhatwadekar and Amrutangshu Shekhar Satyavaadi in a movie. He used to believe that the name is indicative of the personality of a person – bigger the name bigger is the personality. The name ‘Hijli’ is neither big, nor a tongue twister, nor has any complicated permutation of sounds. But still it remained in my mind for quite some time since I’d first heard of it. No doubt it was the first name of that sort which I’d heard till then. I heard the name for the first time during the counseling for admission in IIT. I’d come to Kharagpur along with my parents. After the formalities were over we’re taking a stroll around the IIT campus, when we came across the Hijli Detention Camp, the very site around which the first IIT was founded in May 1950. The administrative building of the Detention Camp has been converted into Nehru Museum of Science and Technology. I also learnt that there’s a railway station named Hijli adjoining the IIT campus. Something about the name ‘Hijli’ struck me. Later the Hijli railway station used to be our hiding place during the ragging period. I still remember the suspicious looks with which the station master used to stare at us everytime we spent days, and once a night too, on the platform or the place which was called waiting room!!

No comments: