It was a sundry morning(f u can split t to make a pun). N I landed into a copy of dat day’s “The Hindu”, which I never do. N I landed in dis articl im sure nobody d ve noticed, wher the author ws tryin to xplain y he considered studying history unnecessary n a sheer waste of time.I kno a lot of my frnz who ll nod their heads wid him. Dat set me thinking y do v study history. S the author rite in his conviction dat al history s a waste? (hmmm.. well… makes a good start for a Board exam essay! J )
Wel, as my profile proclaims, im an engg student n I wavd finis-in-toto to the study of history post-high school. However, I find history keeps comin back to me. Frm the kinda food v eat to the kinda ceremonies v attend to the gods v pray to, evythin v do has a reason in the past. And nobody can refute dat.
The first argument dat most ppl (including the author I mentiond) put fwd s- “y shud I bother studying wat sumbody who livd 100s of yrs ago did?”
I agree dat I need not kno who I ve descended frm (tho dat s sposd to b the commonest ans for the qn). I agree wid Raja Raja Chola I on dat – “ I ve no right to carry the names of my ancestors on my head cos im in no way responsibl for their gr8ness or faults. Whether dey wer gr8 or unruly , I cant make em the source of my pride. I can only learn frm em.” I too think v must learn frm mankind’s mistakes n prove the ‘history repeats itself’ adage wrong.
The only justification for the study of history can b dat t can enrich our lives. As a scientific person, I think v must ask y v do the things the way v do em instead of following rules blindly n most of the answers to dese qns lie in the past. For instance, a historian recently publishd a paper to the effect dat temples contain statues cos wen dey wer first made, ppl tot dey wer real! They went to temples cos dey tot the gods livd in temples, dis was y sculptors tried to make their statues as realistic as possibl. He argues on to say dat, in fact, dis was also y they tried o xaggerate human characteristics so as to show the man as an xtra strong person more wel-built than normal men can ever b!! (He also says dat, wen ppl understood later dat the statues weren real, dey went on to say dat the gods had left earth n also created a concept of omnipresence of god!) This triggers the qn:- Mayb der s a god, bt does he really live(?) in temples???
(Note 1:Wel, for real hard core theists, im a theist myself n des re nt meant to hurt neone’s sentiments. Dey re only presentd as the arguments put fwd by an eminent greek historian.
2: If u ve read Erich von Daniken, u ll notice dat he also uses the study of history to prove his theory ,tho I must admit his theory sounds a lil too far-fetched. Bt t proves the point dat leafin thru history can lead us to qn some of our basic beliefs.)
I only wish to reiterate dat some of our practices mite b meaningless n v can , im sure, prevent a lot of gory riots f v xamine our bliefs one shade more closely in the light of our knowledge of history n discover their roots!
The second argument dat most ppl offer s dat “all history s someone’s guess or sumone else’s wish.” Historians xaggerate more than novelists do. N its always one side of the story dat s presented. The victorious re justified while the faults of the defeated re highlightd. So,wat v get to c is never the real picture.
It is true dat historians apparently xaggerrate or xtrapolate history to a gr8 extent. But the soln is only to dig further n find the truth rather than shut the doors of history the past. In fact, even frm history, as t s presented today, v ve so many valuable lessons to learn, dat f v probe further, v do not kno wat treasures v mite find. But certainly, givin up the study s the most illogical thing to do. Our ancestors may not ve been perfect, bt surely, v can learn wat lil dey knew, n improvise on t, rather than lose al the knowledge.
Another argument dat most ppl temme s dat- u learn history f u want. Y force t on oders? Rather y shud I learn al those dates n years n conquests?
Well, dat s a good one indeed! I agree dat this pts to a rather impt hole in our system of education n not the subject as such.It may not b necessary to learn al the dates , or the extent of the gr8 empires, or the list of al battles Alexander fought. Bt t wud be useful to know wat caused the war n wat wer its consequences. By understandin the follies of the emperors, their lands, many a nuclear war may b avoided.
History gives us a good insight into the mysteries of the human mind n many an olden strategy may b ado(a)pted today.
Well, enuf of dis blah….
I only wannat to say dat history s sumthin lik a tool in our hands. U can use t wel, or u can use to kill, or u can let t rust! I don think v need a return to the past. Bt only to learn frm t.
N for sum of us it s fun to learn neway!
As a side-note, t does feel proud to inherit a gr8 past, doesn t? ;)
(Note: This article appeared in "The Hindu -Open Page" dated July 22, under the title "Present actions have roots in the past" (in a more readable form, of course .. :) ))