Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lessons from a History Textbook


We all know how History works. I don't have to reiterate it. Memories of our yesteryear selves burning the midnight oil and slouching over that thick book in vain attempts to 'learn' why Asoka planted trees and how Akbar delivered justice, hardly leave the reminiscent mind.

What more do I have to add? -  well, just that all is well; Asoka continues to be planting trees and Akbar continues to efficiently administer justice happily in the textbooks. I know. I just checked. My History exam got over yesterday. 

 A couple of days back, we were given over twenty-two PDF files to prepare for, each with no less than 10 or 11 pages. Together, they must have spanned over 6000 years of history. 6000 years to breeze through in two days. Ah! Paradise!

So, that is how it went - two days of stress and turmoil. Funny, how even after 16 years into the system, I continue to be irked by its most basic tenet - Exams. Interestingly, even after I knew that I had crossed the 'I-am-gonna-fail' point, I continued to bite my nails. And I wondered "What is the big deal? I will surely pass this one. These marks are not a big deal for the media industry. So what am I anxious about? What is there to lose?

It then sank in me that I have only to lose. Having performed well so far, any huge regression will be perceived a 'drop' in the graph to turn on the keenly judgmental instincts of the human mind. "What happened to her? Has she gotten distracted this semester? She has been fooling around too much recently. Maybe something is bothering her." 

No one cares about those who have always shown consistency with being 'average'. They might even be seen as the intelligent ones who are playful, creative and too hyperactive and fun to be preparing for hours for an exam. But the rest - oh,  our auto-monitor is on for them, tuned-in. A single downfall concludes that something must have gone terribly wrong with their lives and skills. 

In reality, perhaps they just didn't care enough for this test. Going by that logic then, the attitude of being nonchalant before an exam is seen as unacceptable for someone who was labelled under the glorious ranks of 'responsible', 'sincere' and 'hard-working'. Yes, these are the 'good' tags and anything that made you shun them are not positive signs to be appreciated. Once good, always to continue. Success is the biggest liability that even befell one.

You might ask why I am bothered. Easy, I am not Buddha yet. And when a few souls back home subscribe to these kind of views, there comes in the guilt factor too, remember.

So lets face it - the civilization values success, values victory. Anyone who doesn't seem to care for them is surely demented. Glancing down at the book, flooded with these thoughts, it struck me that the pages I was staring down at, had all along been reinforcing the same thing too.



Who are the ones who continue to be prominent in History textbooks? A few empathetic ones, yes. A few talented ones, yes. But for the large part of it - the powerful ones. The kings who conquered the most, the ones who had the largest empires, the ones who waged the most successful wars. The others who failed - well, they simply failed. Blaady weaklings I say! History is simply too sensitive to weakness and downfall to care for them. I am sure Dhoni and his men will agree to that, the way we ping-pong them for every slouch.

One slide in the course went - 

"Jalāl-ud-dīn Fīrūz was the first of the Khaljī rulers, who proved to be too mild to hold his power.
•His ambitious nephew Alāuddīn Khaljī was the next ruler." 


The second statement was then succeeded by many lines on the Alauddin fellow. And I thought, damn, what a disgrace! Thank god the Jalal-ud-din guy is dead! I cringe to think how he would have felt had he seen this. Just one line for his life? Of course, he was too 'mild'. So, if you were someone who was not interested in power, who did not like mainstream attention or simply wanted to spend life reading books, you are not worth being remembered in future. The blood-thirsty ones, the power hungry ones - whoa, they are the players baby! 

The actress who gained weight is a failure. The entrepreneur who sold his venture off is a failure. The man who is jobless and sitting at home or the blogger who suddenly couldn't continue blogging join the league too. In every case, we assume that they tried and couldn't keep up. It is not an option that they could have simply grown past it and went for something better. So, beg, bribe, kill, take drugs - it doesn't matter. Somehow manage but show the results when judgment day comes. At least that is what seems to be its moral.

History yells coldly - "Show me the proof dammit! Leave your marks. Only then do you matter." The question is, do we really want to matter? It pains me to realize that the world around leaves little choice for that answer. 

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sindu - I just decided that I won't give future kids a tough time (learning about me), so I'm settling for the average life. What say?

-V

Sinduja Ragunathan said...

Some people cannot be just average, Uncle OTEE. It is just not in them. :) Sorry.

bomzie said...

Hey,

The entrepreneur who sold his venture is a success, the one who gave up isn't. That's beside the point. A few days back I came across this joke, tell me what you think of this :)

A minister dies and ascends to the Pearly Gates. Ahead of him is a guy who's dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, a leather jacket, and jeans. Saint Peter looks at him and says, "Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you into the Kingdom of Heaven?"

The guy replies, "I'm Joe Cohen. I'm a taxi driver from New York City."

Saint Peter consults his list. He smiles and says to the taxi driver, "Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter the Kingdom."

The taxi driver goes into Heaven with his robe and staff. Next, it's the minister's turn. He stands erect and booms out, "I am Joseph Snow. I was the pastor of Saint Mary's for the last 43 years."

Saint Peter consults his list. He says to the minister, "Take this cotton robe and wooden staff, and enter the Kingdom."

"Just a minute," says the minister. "That man was only a taxi driver, and he got a silken robe and golden staff. How can this be?"

"Up here, we work by results," says Saint Peter. "While you preached, people slept; while he drove, people prayed."

hahaha....wat say?

harishsram said...

history teaches a bad lesson by telling mainly abt the result - it is not because the kings conquered that they are written about - it is because of their bravery - be it in any field they venture into.

The pandyas and chola's are famous not mainly for their warrior skills but for the architectural & artistic skills.

So if some1 like Jalāl-ud-dīn Fīrūz was great at something else, he didnt showcase it. So ya, the history will respect only those who tell others what they are.

But why should we showcase our self?

will we start believing that Manmohan singh is a great leader even though he doesnt exhibit that? A leader no matter wat you defend with, can only become a leader by proving that he is - its a group activity after all so others should believe in you.

And that is why we are wanting to prove ourself, coz we want to be the leader at somethin or the other.

Sinduja Ragunathan said...

@bomzie: *dumbfounded stare* I can't believe that you actually came and posted some joke ripped off from the net here. But know what, it was awesome. Lol. Humorous AND intelligent. Wait, just the way you are! :)

@Harish: Hmmmm. So you are saying what matters at the end is only what you show. Perhaps in a rational social world, that is true but it is not the 'ultimate' reality. You are what you are, whether you show it or not. Maybe people won't talk about you but all I am saying is, they should not get judgmental and make false notions about the plight of the person or write them off.

harishsram said...

i read in some article that post-independence we were nationalist. past liberalisation we became communist & now in the new millennium we have become individualists. So i will go brush aside the society part.

d human mentality - ok thats too much - my mentality - till wat i have noticed, tends to add up info abt the person whom i interact with & there by form an opinion. But i always tell to myself before i am abt to react to something that that person has done which is way out of the league i had put them in - boy u have only seen 1 facet of that person - dont put a period to ur analysis on that person.this is wat i was tought n i see that becoming a practice around the ppl i interact ... the person may feel bad seeing my initial shock/apprehension, but thats upto him to handle it coz he is introducing something that wasnt expected of him rite.

So while i generally dont care wat/how people judge, a bad judgement by some1 influential shldnt be taken seriously. the luck we have now is that we have a lot of options. so let us all try to be budha :)

harishsram said...

few days back i was highly critical of selvaraghavan's ME. it might have looked like i had written him off. no. i will still go 1st day whn his next film releases.

I was judging his product.

The product wasn't communicated to me in the way i felt would justify the content. there is a diff between saying a person is a genius & then proving it rite? So he didnt wanna show that he is a genius n kept it to himself n i was expected to get into his mind to understand wat he was trying to tell. it is like being a lkg teacher. sorry but he isnt a kg student.

So while i was judgemental abt his product it is viewed as judging him & writing him off. So he or ppl who hear my comment shldnt get judgemental with wat i say.

to summarize this comment in reply to wat u asked - 'whn the judge's judgement is judged as judgemental who is to blame whom?'

CHIBI said...

History teaches only one thing.. To Win.. and only winners write history. no one wants to listen to the loser's version.. :|

only women have found satisfaction even in losing...with respect to weight.. :P

C.V.Varun said...

There is one contradiction here though, If achieving is not your game, why expect recognition? If a king is wise enough to decide that knowledge is higher than power, He would hardly bother what people think about him.

One who doesn't want to showcase himself/herself, should also be wise enough to accept the opinions! That according to me makes all the difference!

Anonymous said...

... and only winners write history

True - what one sees as history is usually a one sided version.

-V

Arumugam said...

I think,history is nothing but a cautionary tale for mankind.As tomorrow's history is being written today,Gaddafi and Osama may have been 'brave', powerful and historically important but they will only be remembered as a people who were hunted down and killed for the deeds they did.Being remember for the right reasons is more important.


People generally dont think about how they will go down in the annals of history.The ones who do so are megalomaniac.We are insignificant dust,existing for a blink in cosmic time.Humankind itself is insignificant,let alone individual lives.We lose that sense of perspective not sometimes but most of the time.


Reading this,I got the distinct impression that ,you seem to be quite regretful of the fact that only power hungry/blood thirsty people are forever immortalized in the sands of time :D and ordinary peace loving people like us who "dont like mainstream attention or simply wanted to spend life reading books" are forgotten;D

But hey,God loved average people,thats why he made so many of them :P

Sinduja Ragunathan said...

@Harish: True, harsh judgements shouldnt be taken so badly...it is human nature. But I am glad you are aware of the limitations of judgement.
If we are trying to 'communicate', as I have written in my prev. post, we should def do our best to put the best foot ahead. No doubts on that. Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts, certain things might go wrong. We cannot write off the person because of that. There might be so many other factors in play.

@Chibi: Yeah, always strived to be a loser in that context ;)

Anonymous said...

But hey,God loved average people,thats why he made so many of them :P

@Arumugam - Hey, I like that.

-V

Sinduja Ragunathan said...

@Varun: Awesome point Varun. This post was not about those people who had transcended the need for recognition. It is about us laymen. At no point should we judge them inferior. Maybe they do not care how we judge them but we could have more accurate perceptions to be a better being.

@Arumugam: Being remembered for the right reasons? Who portrays the right reasons - the winners. What if Gaddafi and Osama had some good sides to them too...will it ever be remembered in mainstream History? So as you said, we should neither consider getting featured in History too seriously and also take History itself only with a pinch of salt.

My regrets? Ah..:)The only thing I am regretful of - life itself. I know. I know. Too much 'peter philaasaphy'.

And God? What if I said, he must have hated the average people. Thats why he shooed them off to earth from heaven in large numbers? ;)

sid said...

Nice train of thought! Do you wonder why we tend to feel it's a crime to accept being 'mediocre' and not be ambitious?

I often question if it's because of our assumption that one might be labelled complacent or not competent discounting the fact that he/she might just be truly content with life. Our worth in our own eyes is what we're worth in the eyes of others. It's hard for us to fathom that happiness can be achieved without searching for money, honey and glory (and thereby pages of history) after all!

Of course, most of us know that last line to not be true. Problem is that we simply don't know (yet) of any other way.

Sinduja Ragunathan said...

We simply don't know (yet) of any other way! - Loved that part! :)
Busybee, thnx for writing in!