During school days, I was an avid admirer of social studies classes, specifically history. Quite predictably, I used to score better in social studies papers, than math or science – sometimes :-). The dreams about future used to revolve around studying history, writing civils – oh, what not. Summarizing everything as a wannabe comp sci researcher now- I can say, all that was blah. (May, be all the present rant is blah too).
I began losing interest in history day by day, perhaps ever since I enrolled myself for an Engineering degree, or may be the day I decided (like thousands of others in my age), to take an Engineering entrance. Priorities changed…and studying history first took a backseat, then was gradually forgotten.
Later attempts at knowing some history, made me extremely suspicious of various interpretations and ultimately lead to the loss of a “sense of history”. The “What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” feeling sunk in. For the years that followed, I learnt history only through – period fiction, biographies/auto biographies and news paper articles (old and new). Sometime back, there was something that Saurav Ganguly said – something like – “Whats the use of history…?” (I tried googling for the quote, in vain! This was around 2005.).
Yeah, I became indifferent to history over a period of time. If reading Arun Shourie’s :“Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud” – in march 2009 made me more cynical, Regular opinions from various quarters that a lot of historians, of various nationalities are biased in some sense ended in a disillusionment about “knowing” real history.
Over the past 2.5 years, there was one book, which I felt like reading, almost instantly…and backed off instantly too. It was Ramachandra Guha’s “India after Gandhi“. I was afraid of the size of this book… 🙂
Finally, began with it yesterday. Since the book is a post-1947 story, I think I can manage to read and understand it better. Any strong feelings of love or hate to some ideology in a history book impulsively repels me from trusting the author’s “balance” in narrating history. So far as I have read, the book is devoid of them.
Despite this eternal cynicism of history writing, I prefer to trust the historian this time. Let us see how it goes.