Days of our Lives!

August 20, 2007

There is History. And then there is History!

Filed under: Musings,My Cup of Socie-Tea — Santhosh @ 4:29 AM
“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
George Bernard Shaw

I was bad at History in school. It’s a statement of fact. And I loved History. Which is a much stronger statement of fact. So why then did I mess up badly at History? It was the exams, or rather the questions they invariably came up with in the History exams. What were the dimensions of the bath used by the Indus Valley people? How many wives did King So-and-so have? What is the date, time and celestial arrangement when Queen Mary the ninety seventh picked her nose for the fourth time while signing the treaty? Sheesh!
To me, the purpose of History lies in the lessons it teaches us, not in the historical dates and names. Somewhere down the line, a combination of factors have moved the emphasis to the when’s, who’s and the where’s rather than the how’s, why’s and why not’s.

All this was all those years back, before the era of Google and Wikipedia, sometime in the late nineties. Back then there were these things called libraries and sections in them called “Reference Books” which you couldn’t check out even for a photocopy. Apart from providing the base for one of the biggest kadi’s of our school life about en-cycle-a-pidiya, the Encyclopaedia Britannica used to be the internet back then. I’ve spent hours poring over them, fascinated about the content in them, marvelling over how far man and Mother Earth have come, comparing notes with the three other sets of Encyclopaedias.

I had my own much more fascinating syllabus, reading about the rivalry between the Templars and the Hospitalers, about knights in shining armor and gleaming black horses, about Ivan IV the Terrible of the Russian Tzars, about Michelangelo who spent months on his back painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, about the Vikings, the Spartans, the Dark Ages and a whole lot of other stuff. Hell, I read Hitler’s Mein Kampf when I was in my 8th while the official syllabus wanted me to by-heart the birth date and the middle name of an old lady wearing a top hat who helped found an obscure society to “prepare humanity for the reception of the World Teacher when he appeared again on earth“. Now that is History if you ask me, without even getting into dinosaurs and the stone age.

So, what was the point of all that? At the end of it all, I have a 10th board exam marksheet that could have done with a few extra points in History. This refusal to bow down to what is needed may even make a difference when I go for my Masters. Mathangi Miss, my History teacher in 10th told me the last time we talked that a few years down the line, once I’ve matured more and looked at how life deals the cards, maybe I’ll look back with a tinge of regret at not having given my best for what was “needed for life”. I’m looking back now, and I realise that in effect, in the eyes of a society that is going to judge me objectively, maybe I come about as an ‘almost’ above average success (like 76%, or is it 79?) in History. But then all that other stuff that I’d read when I should have been memorizing dates and figures have helped me in innumerable quizzes, essays, conversations and, Hell, even in posts on this blog. And I also realise that this characteristic of mine to do things my way is precisely why I am me, that if I have a chance to go back and edit things, I wouldn’t touch this part. I also know that I qualify as a success on the terms by which I quantify. You know, you were not entirely correct Mathangi Miss.

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1 Comment »

  1. honestly i wish i could give the same… dates have always been against me- the Saturday night ones are now History, the historical ones have slipped from my palm, and the Palm ones are my sole companions on saturday nights!!!!but then, imagining Aurangazeb as Raghuvaran and Sivaji as Rajni helped quite a bit- except when i interrupted the battle of Blah-blah-blah with an item number in a run down bar!!!(tht apart, reminded of the Aur-unga-zip mokkai!!!!)

    Comment by Mark IV — August 21, 2007 @ 10:59 AM | Reply


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