Names should make sense to belong

Lawi Joel

GO round the country or, particularly, the city of Dar es Salaam, and you will see how people get wild with names. With conscious efforts they seem to adopt a new moniker to suit their liking, incongruent to the situation or place, though the name may be.

Some call their business buildings in the city or elsewhere in the country Los Angeles Plaza or Arizona Avenue, names of places in the US. Of course these places are not an extension of some business of theirs in the USA, but mere trading areas so named to boost the owner’s ego.

Their properties are not spared of the practice and are also named after some distant place the owner has visited or just heard of. You will see a restaurant at some corner uptown named Bullet Train. Calling a restaurant bullet train is quite a drama.

If a train in the country were so named, the imagination of the speaker would be understandable. But a restaurant named after Japanese bullet train! I saw in some part of this city of Dar es Salaam an eating joint with that name and wondered why it was so named.

On the outside it resembled a mountain threatening to erupt with lava. What I saw were roasted chicken legs and boiled bananas with the shape of a bow without a string. I ordered a plate of bananas and a chicken leg. Not that the dish was my favourite, I was just hungry.

Twenty minutes later the order had not come. I got up and walked out. How did such a place – one with staff so sluggish and without sense of time - get the name of ‘Bullet Train’ the lethargic servants who delivered service at the speed of a snail?

Moreover, none of the attendants looked like a bullet train! I thought that the best answer to my question would be to look up in the Internet what “Bullet Train” meant to find a relationship between this farflung restaurant and the Japanese train.

The information on Bullet Train begins by saying: “The Shinkanseen is a network of high speed railway lines in Japan operated by five Japan Railways Group companies. “The network presently links most major cities on the islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Hakodate on northern island of Hokaiddo, with an extension to Sapporo under construction and scheduled to commence in March 2031. The nickname bullet train is sometimes used in English for these high-speed trains.

“The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 603 km/h (375 mph) for maglev trains in April 2015.” I learnt much from that report about Bullet Train. The Shinkanshen trains were just too fast for that rickety restaurant to name itself after the swift trains.

And why did this other bar in my neighbourhood call itself Madison Square, a unique commercial area with a complex building? Madison Square Garden, often called “MSG” or simply “The Garden”, said an on-line report “is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York borough of Manhattan. Located in Midtown Manhattan between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd Streets, it is situated atop Pennsylvania Station.

By the Internet report, the MSG is the fourth venue to bear the name “Madison Square Garden”, the first two Madison Square, on East 26th Street and Madison Avenue, with the third Madison Square Garden further uptown at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street.

Then I saw part of the report I thought possibly had relevance to why the bar was so named. “The Garden,” it said, “is used for professional basketball and ice hockey, as well as boxing, concerts, ice shows, circuses, professional wrestling and other forms of sports and entertainment. “It is close to other midtown Manhattan landmarks, including the Empire State Building, Korea town and Macy’s, and at Herald Square.

It is home to the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL), the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and residency to singersongwriter Billy Joel. “The Garden opened on February 11, 1968, and is the oldest major sporting facility in the new York metropolitan area.

It is the oldest arena in the National Hockey League and the second-oldest arena in the National Basketball Association.” Did you get that? “The MSG had another superlative quality. It is said to be the fourth-busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales, behind The 02 Arena, the Manchester Arena and The SSE Hydro in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, I had a lot to learn about MSG.

At a total construction cost of approximately $1.1 billion, it has been ranked as one of the 10 most expensive stadium venues ever built. So why particularly did the owner of this bar call it Madison Square, did it have a boxing ring or have an entity related to the Garden? I waited until one evening and walked into the bar. At that time some boxers must be training there having a match.

What I walked into were a bunch of drunkards, their eyeballs almost falling out of their sockets, hot with beer. It all was ramshackle. There was nothing “Madison Square Garden” about it. If anything, the place was Madison hexagon.

Then I remembered a spot called Hai Bar in the western part of the city.

It must belong to person, who belongs to a community around Mt Kilimanjaro area, north of the country. Out of nostalgia in Dar es Salaam, he or she named the bar Hai, after their town Hai at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro. That makes sense.

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