Monday, December 12, 2011

Green Path, renamed, for the second time.

I just received a news alert that stated that "The road from the Horton Place roundabout up to the Public Library roundabout is to be named as Nelum Pokuna Mawatha from December 15, after the Arts and Theater complex, titled “Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theater” is declared open.

I had to think a bit to work out which road this was. The news alert simply described two different points on the road. The road in question is actually Green Path or at least a part of it. The most extraordinary thing is that Green Path has already been renamed once, it is now officially known an Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, after the last major round of renaming that took place somewhere in the 1960's and 70's.

I have no patience for this silly business of renaming roads and public buildings. I have grumbled about it before, but the latest one really takes the cake, because the usual specious argument that the renaming is necessary to erase colonial influence is no longer valid. Which is probably why the news alert discreetly omitted mentioning the current official name of the street.

If there was any Sri Lankan who actually deserved to have something named after him it was Coomaraswamy, not that he would ever have wanted such a thing, he was far too modest a man. A brilliant scholar, he was fluent in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Pali, English, French, German, Spanish, Tamil, Persian, Hindi and Sinhalese. The American's are happy enough to list him in their list of distinguished Asian Americans, he probably qualifies due to his long stay in that country.

In fact, in his first career as a geologist, he did discover a new mineral, which he could name after himself if he so wished, but did not, it is Thorianite. He would surely have turned in his grave, if he knew that some thoughtless politician had decided to rename Green Path in his name.

In his second career as an art historian he achieved great fame, ending up as curator of of the oriental collection of the Boston Museum. The rulers would have served the people a a lot better if they had done something to promote wider understanding of his work or funded studies that could have continued what he had started, instead of naming a road.

Read more on his work here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe the govt objective is to erase colonial and Tamil influence :)