What do we plan to leave behind for the generations to come? An exhausted and pillaged planet? Loads of plastic waste? A world divided on petty and frivolous excuses? Or do we want them to feel grateful for their inheritance? Maybe a better quality of life? A proud heritage? A rich cultural legacy? Individual decisions are based on individual circumstances but as a generation of people what are we leaving behind? I’ve often wondered about this and the answers are always different.
Are we ashamed of our history or is it that we are just too indifferent to what is not directly affecting us? This question comes to my mind more often these days when I am talking about history with the kids. We as a family love travelling and have tried to go to as many places as possible, by road, rail or any other means available. It’s always been enjoyable (though it didn’t seem like that sometimes!), instructional, and more importantly, helped create some beautiful memories.
During some of these travels, we have visited historical sites and places. My husband and I would get the kids to read up about the place or the famous personality from there to help connect better with what we were going to see. We thought it would be a much more effective way of teaching them about our rich cultural and historical past. But I would always feel disappointed at the end of the trip.
The reason, or reasons, for this feeling, would always be the same. If you have visited any of our historical monuments or sites, you would know what I am talking about. The defaced walls, mutilated facades, deteriorating conditions, everything screams for some attention and care. The restoration work is often shoddy with concrete slathered over the fine engravings. Instead of basking in the romantic stories of the bygone eras, we get to witness the crass etchings on the wall of our present-day suitors.
The hordes visiting the sites are just ‘visiting’ them; they do not feel for the place. Hawkers set up stalls in every conceivable place possible. All the illusions about having a large portion of our population starving goes out of the window (broken or damaged, albeit) when you see piles of empty packets of wafers and snacks lying around. Let’s not forget the empty water bottles too which add to the ever-growing pile of plastic waste! The guides are most of the time clueless, just rattling out the details that they have been memorising from the first day at work. They wouldn’t know the difference between a Mughal emperor and a Nawab.
So instead of trying to educate the children about the historical significance, or getting them to experience the place, we end up trying to teach them the Do’s and Don’ts when going out to such sites, the social responsibility of each of us to protect the place. So are they wrong when the only thing that comes to their minds when we talk about a place we visited is how unkempt it was or how someone was defecating in the famous gardens while the security staff and others were standing near the chai-walla enjoying the hot tea and gossip?
Why don’t we feel any kind of pride when we go to such places? Why are we indifferent to our history? Why can’t people be a little more conscious and sensitive when visiting such places? Yes, I agree, there are things I am not proud of from our history. But that’s my perspective. What’s more important is that all this has already happened and is a part of us, whether we like it or not. So why not just learn from our mistakes and work on the good parts of it. It may sound naïve and child-like but then it’s the children who have the power to transcend these very same boundaries we are setting up for them.
The larger effect of our indifference is that we have a confused and disengaged generation which does not feel connected to its history because the history books talk about places which they haven’t heard of. The NexGen have enough on their platter as it is, why create more reasons for them to keep away from learning about our land? Instead of blaming them for their ignorance, it would be more beneficial if we up our game.
Our history books should not be victims of whimsical changes but must instead allow them to think, explore and examine different aspects. Let’s market the monuments not as some decrepit ruins or shady lovers’ hangouts but as cultural hotspots with lots of interesting activities. Like the Light-and-Sound shows in many of the forts are a real crowd-puller. They bring the atmosphere alive. These shows at Golconda fort, Agra fort and Purana Quila were absolutely engaging and leaves the audience in raptures. Many of the historical sites have now got the assisted audio guides which make the visit even more interactive. Let’s not deprive our children of the umbrageous embrace of their heritage.
In some countries that had suffered greatly during World War II, they actually have a practice wherein they visit historical sites as part of the wedding celebrations. It’s a way of not forgetting the past and paying tribute to those not amongst us now. I personally feel it’s a beautiful custom. It doesn’t help to be an ostrich every time. Visiting sites should be made a part of the academic curriculums both in schools and in colleges. History and our historical legacy should be brought from the dead and made more entertaining and engaging.
Maybe an A-lister Bollywood celebrity or some cricketer or some other famous celebrity should be asked to conduct classes on television or be made the brand ambassador for tourism in India to get the attention it deserves. Our children will grow up as proud citizens of India only if they can see around them edifices of glory, bravery, ingenuity, grandeur and honour being respected for what they truly are. Maybe..maybe tomorrow will be a better day for these mute witnesses of our glorious past!
Maybe I’m feeling this way because I love visiting these places, learning about the stories, imagining what it would have been like then, never giving up the chance to share them with others. Would love to hear your opinions about the same. Maybe your ideas would help me write another blog about what we can do to preserve such beautiful remnants of our past. After all, preparing for tomorrow is a joint effort by all of us today!
I’ve listed out a few books to help you start off, though there are many more books you could begin with. Just want to remind you that the blog contains affiliate links and in case you do decide to use any of them then I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.