14 January 2008

How it all turned out

I often wonder what India was like in the past. I wonder how India, whose boundaries stretched from Baluchistan to Burma, shrank over the years to become what she is today. I wonder why India was invaded so many times – by Arabs, Moghuls, Pathans, Huns, Sakas, Greeks, etc. – and yet, the people of India never ventured out of her boundaries to invade and conquer other lands.

I wonder why, even though written records were maintained as early as 3rd century BC, there is so little documentation of our history before the Muslims came into our country in the 12th century AD. Or, did the Muslims come into India 400-odd years before that when Muhammad ibn Qasim entered Sind? I guess that’s a part of Pakistan’s history now, not ours.

I wonder if, originally, India was a Hindu state, does it mean that, in view of all the invasions and colonisations, we have actually been under ‘foreign rule’ for the past 1,500 years or so… until our Independence in 1947? And, I wonder if a concept that is built on the idea of ‘breaking away from foreign rule to re-build a Hindu state’ will influence the politics of our country now?

One of the reasons why many of us don’t pay attention to history is the fact that we know how it all turned out. It’s written in our books. We can see some of it right before our eyes. Our present is a proof of what happened in history. And, considering our preoccupation with the present, and plans for the future, we can’t be bothered all that much by the past.

And yet, so much of our present, and our plans for the future, are actually rooted to our past. We are the way we are because of what happened before us. If we examine our past, perhaps, we can have a better understanding of our present – and make better plans for our future. It’s not just ‘how’ it all turned out that should matter to us. It should also matter ‘why’ it turned out the way it did.

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