Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Lessons from the past

‘History repeats itself. First as a tragedy and second as farce’ – Karl Marx

As most children raised before parenting books started topping sales chart, I was accustomed to corporal punishment, both at school and at home. But there was one distinction when it came at being punished at home. It was my father and the words he uttered before meted out the punishment I deserved.
     “Laathon ke bhoot batoon se nahi maante
Which roughly translates into, ‘what can be achieved with force is seldom achieved with words’.
The reason I am sharing this rather fun story with you is because, I read something on Quora about operation blue star, which then made me read up on the Muslim league. And I couldn’t help but think to myself…
‘Damn! The colonists played a mean game of Keyser Sozian John Doe with us lot. They divided us. We joined hands, won our freedom, only for us to go back to our age old squabbles of who gets the bigger piece of the pie.’
We revel in racial stereotypes. We revel in our comfort zones, we constantly argue about regional supremacy. We argue about North Vs South/Delhi Vs Bombay.
As a school kid who could articulate proper questions, instead of just ‘Why?’, I used to often wonder why do we have to study history? Why do we have to remember the dates, who was king, who killed whom? Why? What was the point of it all? I am not sure if it was one of my teachers or my mother who explained that it was important for us to know our history, because history repeats itself. And we ought to know about our history so that we don’t commit the mistakes our forefathers and fathers made. And for a kid studying 6th grade, it somehow made sense. As I have grown older, I find myself being drawn to the stories from the past. I am yet to realize if the reason for this want lies because, I know so little about my parents, OR, if it is because I see my country being mismanaged? Given my management education, I wonder, if the solution lies in the past. Maybe I am being a pseudo old age home resident and wanting to reminisce in the nostalgia of the days gone by.
Whatever the reason maybe, I find myself reading Indian history. I find myself requesting my father his time and patience to get to know him. While the former is easier to do, the latter isn’t. But the more I find myself reading, reading about events which have shaped our mental psyche as Indians. I can’t help but feel embarrassed, pity, helpless, and deep sorrow.
It wasn’t that long ago that Pakistan was formed. It wasn’t that long before Bangladesh got its independence. It wasn’t that long back that Punjab wanted its own theocratic state called as Khalistan. It wasn’t that long ago that the puppet masters of Bombay wanted the place to be rid of ‘aliens’. I say, it wasn’t that long ago, because when there are still movies being made about the holocaust, the Nazis, the great depression, all that I have mentioned is relatively in the recent past.
We, as school children are taught that the British Empire used ‘divide and rule’. They did this successfully for over 347 years. And what do we do, as newly independent citizens of India? We go back to being squabbling narrow minded dullards. We go back to fighting with our brothers over who gets the bigger piece of chocolate.
Many erudite scholars have written lengthy articles prophesying and articulated this point before me. This was the reason why our shores and borders are perforated.
Clearly, we didn’t learn anything from our history. The more I read the newspapers, the more I read about our past, especially post independence, the more I begin to realize this astonishing fact.
It is frightening. It is frightening to recognize that we don’t need an external foe to drive a wedge between us. We are doing a mighty good job of it.
There is no denying that India is fragmented. But, we were united for a common goal. The goal of seeking independence from our oppressors. So why did we regress back to dividing ourselves again? Divide ourselves along the lines of gender, sex, religion, caste and creed?
Did Dr. B.R Ambedekar goof up whilst writing the constitution of India? I am not an expert on the laws and by laws mentioned in the constitution. But I want to ask to those who do, does our constitution speak of a spirit? Of a dream?
If it does, then are we living our lives according to it? I have realized that it is easy to outrage, it is easy to protest over wrong answers and wrong actions and doings. But are we asking the right questions?
Do we know where we come from? Do we already know the answers to the questions that we ask? Are we repeating ourselves like a self flagellating monkey? The questions are plenty. But do we have somebody who can answer them? Do we have somebody, a leader, who can raise his hands and accept that he doesn’t have all the answers to all our questions? Or, are we just happy being naïve and easily distracted by the moving images and information overload?
Till we start asking questions instead of expressing anger, nothing is going to change. Anger, like most emotions subside after time. Unanswered questions rattle about in the human consciousness till they get answered.
We haven’t learnt anything from our past. Maybe we should.

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