I don’t know why the collective mind of the world feels that history is embroiled only with facts, and does not have a great significance on life. I’m not able to understand why individuals feel that
history is something of the past, and thus futile. In my opinion, I think of history as something breathing, running and living. It’s forever changing and forever moving.
Let’s look to one of the most consumed forms of art in our digitally ubiquitous world - films. Even though grossly exaggerated, bollywood films do help us dive into the world of history and remind us of its omnipresent importance - Mangal Pandey, starring Aamir Khan, elucidates through its actions and heavy dialogues that Indian patriotism can never be suppressed by a colonial power. In another film, Jodha Akbar, starring Aishwariya Rai Bachan and Hrithik Roshan, the audience gets a glimpse into the grandeur of the Mughal dynasty and sees India as a melting plot. On the other hand, in Rang De Basanti, we see the way in which individuals are deluged by the past, and its profound effect on a group of friends, that leads them to becoming rebels for a cause. History, as seen by just these few vivid examples, is vast and can be elucidated through various lenses. It allows us to search for the meaning of our own culture, patriotism and ‘cause’, thus carrying great personal significance.
The first time I was truly invigorated by history was after reading 1984 by George Orwell. The dystopian novel which encompasses themes of individuality, freedom and authoritarianism was eye opening. Orwell, also a historian, had drawn inspiration from the novel through the atrocities of the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War. Reading the novel, I understood the importance of history in creating a narrative or creating a story, it forms the skeleton or the setting of any piece of writing. If we can connect it to today’s world in India, we have the narratives of Nehru versus Vallabhai Patel, or the narrative of the Mughals versus the Rajputs. History is truly a war of words, of ideologies and of politics. I also felt a deep sense of connection to the present while reading about the past, Orwell describes the world to be a dark and daunting, authoritarian place in the 1940’s and today, the world even more extremely progressive and digitised, still has the presence of oppressive regimes.
History is as effervescent as it ever was today. After George Floyd’s horrific death hundreds of monuments have been vandalised and destroyed around the world. This brings various questions of the expunging of history, or whether we should ‘toy’ with the past to help us feel comfort in the present. History allows one to understand politics in a whole different dimension, it allows us to judge issues of today with the understanding of the past - Is the George Floyd protest a rebellion against slavery in the past ? Is the protest about erasing the legacy of African Americans as ‘slaves’ and replacing it with a greater truth ? These are questions shaded with history that can aid intellectualism as well as vibrant discourse in our democracies.
To arm yourself with the knowledge of history is to cut the clutter, and understand the ‘truth’. Remember, without the knowledge of history, whether it is a country’s history or your personal history, mistakes will be repeated. To arm yourself with the knowledge of history, is to evade a future war with time.