Lahore, ancient and beautiful, is a city with an unparalleled, diverse history. Before Partition, Lahore was one of the great cosmopolitan cities of India, brimming with artists, thinkers, writers, poets, saints and philanthropists. As Pakistanis, we seem to be obsessed—at least on a government level—with whitewashing our historical past, and that is a pity, an overreaction and happily, quite useless in many instances.

Did you know that Empress Road is officially now known as Shahrah-e-Abdul Hameed bin Badees? Who in the world is that, you might wonder, and rightly so—a diligent intellectual inquiry (i.e Google) has yielded the information that, other than some dudes on Facebook, Abdelhamid Ben Badis was an Algerian who formed the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema, and was part of the Islamic Reform movement. In Algeria. He died in 1940, and presumably has not much to do with Pakistan or Pakistani/Indian history. Similarly, Krishan Nagar is now officially and very subtly Islampura, Sant Nagar is Sunnat Nagar and Dharampura is Mustafabad. Sarwar Road used to be called Elgin Road, but that’s a change one can live with because Captain Sarwar was an extremely brave man, and various Lord Elgins had no real relevance in Pakistan, being viceroys of India or Greek marble appropriators. Even so, the ways of paperwork are mysterious and the address books of various musty offices set in stone, and old residents of Sarwar Road sometimes still get mail addressed to someone who lives on Elgin Road (bravo Pakistan Post, who delivers them to the right address every time too!).

As a Lahori, one wonders what need is there to rename streets and neighbourhoods that have been known as one way for generations, even centuries. The obvious reason is that they don’t sound Islamic enough, or at all. Naturally “Ganga Ram Mansions” is not a Muslim name, but it’s the name of an illustrious Lahori without whose engineering and architectural talent, the city would have a very different face—imagine no Model Town, or another face to the GPO or Museum or even the National College of Arts, or Aitchison College. Sir Ganga Ram’s samadhi is near Taxali Gate, he loved Lahore so. Lahore is amongst the ancient cities of the world, so of course its history will be a unique one that includes the structures and monuments and names of the people and communities who have contributed to shaping it, culturally and architecturally and historically. Why should we pretend otherwise? Our history doesn’t begin from Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s invasion, or Babur conquering India—Lahore goes back a long, long way. Let the neighbourhood around Bhairav Asthan (a squashing-together of “Bhairav ka asthan”, or Bhairav/Bheeru’s place) remain that, was it vital to rename it Madina Colony? Madina is a perfectly nice reference, but it doesn’t have a delicious story attached to it either, the kind only a city like Lahore can give you: how a man on death row in jail was visited by a mysterious vision of a man, who told him to close his eyes and be saved. He shut his eyes and behold, he found himself well outside of prison! He asked his benefactor his name, only to be told it was Bhairav before he vanished. The exact spot where the former convict found himself is where the asthan is, a conical little tower in what is now sprawling Ichhra.

Thanks to the Orange Train and it’s senseless, borderline lunatic decimation of Lahore’s cultural heritage, our buildings and monuments are already falling like ninepins to bulldozers. Must we erase our names too, so that all is left is a whitewashed, sanitized city, forced into amnesia about its past? Lahore has been, and remains, home to people from all kind of cultural and religious denominations. Hindus, Christians and Muslims, Sikhs—everyone has something they treasure in this city. Must there only be space for one kind of Lahori, and one version of Lahori history? Whose idea of Lahore is that? Certainly not any true Lahori’s, and for a government headed by men who grew up in Lahore, one is left scratching one’s head at their utter lack of feeling for the city. Happily for us, the state can keep trying to pull these senseless stunts, placating someone or the other, and Google Maps can keep calling Davis Road “Sir Aga Khan Road”. We know what’s what, and no Lahori is ever going to caught dead calling Mall Road Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, even though we all like him very much. In this case, a rose by any other name is not the same rose at all.