History as Fluid Prejudice

History as Fluid Prejudice

“Man! What a long holiday to Wimbledon and Scotland!” Lulu, my parrot observed. This was obvious reference to my stay in the UK. More than two months. And it was coming to end.

“Fifteen more days to go, Lulu” I responded, “Then we will be back in Aamchi Mumbai. Leaving the granddaughter behind is painful. But we must go.”

“Tut, tut.” Lulu sympathised with me. “Granddaughters are gems. They give so much affection. Men lose this quality of giving unconditional love as we grow. Did you have a great time in London?”

“Oh yes. I took her to school or brought her back. It took twenty minutes. Such a great time to talk to them about everything under the sun. And then there was Wimbledon.”

“You watched matches?”

Paes and Hingis

“Yup! Watched Leander Paes and Martina Hingis win their doubles match. Watched two more matches. The entire atmosphere there is so electrifying. The crowd on Henman hill cheered their countryman Andrew Murray.”

“I saw them queuing up from the previous day. They had set up tents! That’s what you do if you wish to watch the Centre Court matches.”

On Tim Henman Hill

“We Indians did it too for the Test matches. I wonder if anybody does it now. And then I went to Scotland.”

“Going to unfamiliar places without reading its history is like watching a Greek movie. Something makes sense, but we miss the excitement.”

“You are right, Lulu. We went to the Stirling Castle. And the Edinburgh Castle. Things looked nice. A lot of information. Well organised. But one enjoys the visit to Sinhagad Fort more. And I also visited HM Yacht Britannia. So well maintained. I wonder why we did not maintain INS Vikrant.”

Britannia“You have to have a sense of history. INS Vikrant was scrapped. Forts in India are badly maintained – actually are allowed to decay over a period. And teaching history in India is itself controversial.”

“You are right Lulu.”

“Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart were decisively defeated by loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Remarkable is the fact that the history of the Battle of Culloden is presented at the Museum with both the perspectives. That of the vanquished as well as that of the victor. That’s remarkable!”

“Can you think of doing it in India?”

“Nah! Not at all.”

“Can you write the history of Mughal battles from Shivaji’s and Mughal perspectives and display at a common site?”

“No way! We can’t take a dispassionate view of history. We are unable to.”

“Mark Twain is right. He said, “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” That was a stab! Lulu delivered it, looked at me in my eyes, and flew away.

Vivek S Patwardhan