Caste, Reservation and where we (The General Category) go wrong

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine and I had a very heated debate on the topic of caste based reservation. While my friend attributed reservation as a right thing, I kept arguing on the negative aspects on it, and stressing on the need to have an economic basis for reservation, not a social basis for it. My friend kept pressing that I read up more about reservation before being so vehemently against it. Right now, its admission time, and I think it is absolutely necessary to talk about a topic a lot of ‘general category’ people frequently discuss about – reservation. And I will tell you, where we (i.e general category people) go wrong.

I am a general category, Brahmin girl, and to admit it, I am obviously privileged. Not as much as a Brahmin man, but still, privileged. I have grown up in a middle-class family, I have struggled to get educated in a good college, I have been hard-pressed to become successful because of monetary issues at home. But I am STILL privileged. You know why? Because at the end of the day, I have been born into a high-caste Hindu Brahmin family, and I have never been subjected to any rhetoric that mocks my ‘caste’.

65 years into Independence, we have progressed by leaps and bounds economically. While some people got elevated, others didn’t. Post independence, Ambedkar established reservation in the Constitution for the lower castes (I hate to refer to them as lower castes, they are our own people and deserve the same level of respect. But for purposes of distinction, I will currently stick to the term lower castes). Now they are notoriously called by the Constitution as ‘SC/STs’. The OBC’s are a third category, used to refer to castes that are socially and economically disadvantaged. The highly controversial Mandal Commission report of 1980 found 52% of India’s population to consist of OBCs.

Reservation and its repercussions isn’t a new term of debate. Its a debate going on for years. From the time of the Mandal Commission, General category students have flocked to the streets protesting against reservation that ‘takes away their seats’. My plea to the General category students is- Please understand who takes reservation and that you aren’t affected by it.

1. Reservation DOESN’T take away the seats of the General category. In fact, the population of SC/STs and OBCs is larger than the General category in India. And we still get greater seats.

2. We aren’t affected by reservation. There may be economically advantaged SC/ST’s and OBC’s who take reservation, but they are taking away the seat of an economically disadvantaged SC/ST/OBC. Not YOU.

3. You may abuse reservation as much as you want, but will you ever be subjected to societal abuse like them. Even if an OBC/ST/SC candidate is talented, they are still labelled, “lower caste” by the Upper castes. If an OBC or SC/ST ever tries to explain this to you- you will never understand. Because it’s in our social training to not take into account the views of the disprivileged.

4. Reservation is NOT for economic elevation. Its for social elevation. That hasn’t happened, that’s why its still there.

I am a Brahmin girl, if I decide to marry an SC/ST, will my parents agree? I don’t think they will. Why not? Because my friends, caste hierarchy still exists in this country called India, which we call a ‘democracy’.

Now, a lot of general category people will point out that SC/ST’s and OBC’s have lower cut-offs making it easier for them to get into good colleges. Of course, thats an issue, merit should be equalised, but… the cut -offs were lowered for those people who face rampant discrimination till date in smaller towns and villages. And their seats aren’t getting filled because many of them can’t make it to school because people of OUR caste refuse to study with them. And when their seats don’t get filled – they are given to US. And the economically advantaged who do take the benefit of reservation are looking for social elevation folks – which unfortunately the institution of reservation hasn’t been able to give them because people like US won’t give it to them.

If you think I am part-Brahmin, and one of my ancestors is SC/ST, that’s the reason I “bleed” for them, then you’re very well mistaken. I am disgusted that we still live in a society where Caste as a term exists. If you think I am for/against someone, I can just clarify that I am humane, unfortunately. Reservation should have abolished caste years ago, it hasn’t been able to, because we as a society still uphold the institution. I am still referring to myself as ‘Brahmin’ because unfortunately, that is a term I have been trained to use to distinguish me from the ‘others’. And it sticks to my tongue, unconsciously, due to years of social conditioning.

An Ambedkar Periyar study circle was abolished in IIT Madras just two-three days ago. While this news has been flying around, how many of us would like to believe for what Ambedkar stood for? Here is what the students who are part of the study circle wrote in their letter to the Dean, after being derecognised by the elite institute:

We have been accused of spreading hatred between SC-ST and the Hindus and vitiating the atmosphere of the institute. We are surprised and slightly amused. Are SC, ST not part of the so-called ‘Hindus’? How MHRD and IITM is perceiving such a venomous anonymous mail with full of hatred towards the SC, ST and Ambedkar? Are we the one who polarise the students or they are the one who think IITM is their own base to propagate against the interest of SC, ST, OBC who are the majority in our Society? Rather our organization is engaged in propagating Ambedkar and Periyar thoughts, in helping depressed castes and the caste Hindus to realize the evilness of caste-based discrimination taking place in modern India and expose the ideology functioning behind such discrimination. When we talk about the hierarchical caste structure existing in Indian Society, inevitably we end up in talking about the present pathetic condition of peasants and labours. There are a number of sociological studies that will bear us out when we say that caste-based discrimination is still very strong in our society, that caste-based associations can leave some with privileges that add up throughout their lives while those that are excluded face powerful social barriers to their attempts to improve their social and economic status. We have only been discussing these issues with an aim to make a common platform for all students inspite of their caste and creed so as to dismantle the evilness of caste barriers. However, even in 2015, our activities are seen to be too radical by the religious right. If the religious right has the right to be offended, then don’t the oppressed Dalits and Bahujans who still face powerful prejudices have a right to be offended with the state of affairs? Our pamphlets do not have any material that would surprise a sociological or political scientist. Yet, the institute has taken these complaints seriously and has chosen to derecognise our organisation.

There was a reason Ambedkar left Hinduism. This is what he had to say about our beloved religion:



I am not saying that Brahmins and other upper castes don’t face any problems. Yes, a lot of us are in a minority and are labelled as ‘casteists’, when we actually aren’t. I have myself been assumed as ‘casteist’, just because I have an upper caste surname, whereas I believe caste as an institution is the worst thing Indians are born with. I find it even more disturbing that caste has permeated other religions in India too, like Sikhism, Islam and Christianity.

As a young student, I was very angry about reservation. I was very angry about the lower cut-offs for the ‘other’ people. But has our collective anger ever substantiated into equality for other people? No. We still practise Brahmanical traditions, we still like to distinguish ourselves as “upper castes”. And occasionally we love to talk about those ‘privileged’ SC/ST’s who derive wrong benefits out of reservation.

But folks, the terms ‘privilege’ and “SC/ST” don’t go together! They are  not privileged! They are still treated with disgust, contempt. In good colleges, when they don’t perform well, its attributed to the fact that they sought reservation. But reservation isn’t our fight, it isn’t our war. We need to reform ourselves first before we turn around and abuse the institution of reservation.

My plea is for all students reading this article. Population boom is the reason for our woes, don’t blame it on other people. Seats in colleges haven’t increased in proportion to the number of children born in this country, if we don’t think conscientiously, how will we change India? How will we change our society? I was once in your boat, a very angry student who had a problem with reservation, especially during the JNU entrance. (JNU has over 50% reservation – but there are different categories of reservation, not all seats are given on the basis of caste). Back then, my friends who sought reservation maintained a dignified silence – you know why? Because they know that we won’t change.

It’s time we do. It’s time we take up the mantle of equality, and give everyone what they deserve- respect and adulation. Forget that we are Hindus, forget that we belong to a particular sect, embrace humanity. Be happy that there is beauty in being alive, there is beauty in having a free spirit. Half of our inhibitions will disappear, I promise you that, and the road to progress will be smoother. But the only way that can happen in India, is by doing away with our surnames, and everything else associated with “caste”, including our high-handedness.

I am only talking about education here, lets not bring up those disgusting jokes that point that fields like Acting and Cricket don’t have SC/STs and OBC’s in them because there is no ‘reservation’ in these fields. I will just point out that it is plain ignorance if you assume that singers Daler Mehndi, Mika Singh and India’s greatest Athlete PT Usha are from the ‘Upper castes’. And their struggle has been tougher because they belonged to a lower caste.

Otherwise, take a trip to a village. When you see dalits picking up our garbage, cleaning our shoes, and when you realise that our ‘privileged’ SC/ST and OBC friends aren’t exactly privileged in the first place, then maybe our eyes will open. A brahmin may clean the floors of a temple, but a kshatriya or brahmin never has to do what the harijans do for us. The Harijans are the true bastions of our country, the people on which this country stands. Don’t break the country in the name of religion and social hierarchy, I beg of you.

Hello Dowry-seeking (and giving) educated Indian parents, I welcome you to witness a 21st century female

(this article will be shifting from dowry seeking to dowry giving people, transgressing the thin line. But the context remains the same. Read below with caution)

Dear Dowry-seeking (and giving) Indian Parents,

Oh come on, don’t pretend you know taking dowry is a crime. Aren’t you proud of your son who is going to make you malamaal (super-rich)? Aww, you cute people, look at you all going red like a beetroot! Please don’t be so happy at my revelation, the fact that you can read this means you’re educated na? That’s a great thing! Because I am going to say things you don’t want to hear. I know you want to shut me up, what kind of upbringing have my parents given me- they haven’t taught me that being a girl I need to be submissive, quiet and accepting of everything that happens to me? Of course they have! My parents have given me all the sanskaars in the world to kick ass. Don’t worry.

Aren’t you the same people who educate their daughters (now that they are born you have to educate them right, if you don’t, people will think you’re conservative rural class people), and then don’t care about whether they are doing well or not? Aren’t you the same class of people who think that just getting a degree and getting a job suitable enough to find a good “match” for your daughter is the way to go? Oh yeah, and you also prepare your fixed deposits ever since your girl-child is born- akhir dahej ke paise hai (dowry money). You look at the news and curse those lower class people who take dowry and then negotiate with the boy’s family on how much the amount of the “gift” should be.

Oh dear educated people, why do you even distinguish yourselves from the lower-class, uneducated people? What’s the point? After all, you think the same way. Did I offend you? Oh, I am sorry, I am a woman, I should mind myself, shouldn’t I? I need to respect my elders? Plus why the hell am I bothered with what’s happening in your family, after all its your ghar ka maamla. What problem do I have in life, why the hell do I want to throw my brand of feminism on everyone.

Yeah, you’re right. I should really shut myself up. Because nothing is going to change you people. You all claim to be educated, in certain cases religious people, but can not fathom the fact that a woman’s primary function in life is to not be someone’s wife. That she is a human being who should be taught to have her own aspirations in life isn’t a choice. If she doesn’t study, you would rather let her be, because she anyways just needs to pass. Even if she studies, you don’t allow her to take tuitions far away from the house, because girls of good “households” don’t go out that often. You will try your best to compell your daughter to get an MBA if her bachelors degree is not that great, because if she isn’t working, then how will you find a good groom for her? Everything is about marriage, isn’t it? Everything around a woman is concerned around her primary reproductive function.

It is not uncommon for parents to start worrying about their daughter’s marriage as soon as she completes her education and secures a job. Why not? She is settled, isn’t she? Now you can find a nice little boy for her, and get rid of your responsibility. That she can turn around and exercise her decision to stay unmarried or pursue a career or marry someone isn’t an option.

Keep up the good work folks. The Indian government alleviated you all in the 70’s and 80’s into the middle class so that you can all do exactly what you saw in your generation. Then don’t educate your sons or daughters na. What’s the point? When there is no difference between you and an uneducated person.

You all will decry rape, but you will, because its something that concerns your daughter’s and families honour. It is not uncommon for people to say, “thank god she is married, I don’t need to bother about her anymore”. Why not, daughters are born out of thin air, not the womb, their importance is much lower anyways. A sperm is not needed to produce a daughter. All you need is some bad luck, and hola! you have a daughter.

My words hurt, don’t they? But what is more hurtful is the way you perceive women. Just because you don’t beat up your wives or forbid your daughters from going to school doesn’t mean you’re “progressive”. Just because women are different physically than men, doesn’t mean they should be treated differently. Oh well, what’s the point of telling you all, you anyways belong to the backward class brigade. Oh no, I am insulting the backward class. At least they are openly conservative.  You people are of the crowd who say, “We are very progressive”, and then inquire about a woman’s virginity in the marriage “arrangements”.

If your daughter isn’t motivated enough to study, the fathers don’t bother- they have a son, who has to DO WELL. Put all the pressure on the son, the daughter is anyways gonna get married and move away. Pressurise the son to do something for the family, because he has to support the family. (also qualifications + government job of son is directly proportional to dowry amount). Post the marriage of your son, you will seek solace in the arms of your daughter, but you will take help from your son. Your son will light your pyre, he is the reason for your ascent to “heaven”.

The hollowness of my society doesn’t fail to astound me. It is extremely saddening to see people like you. And you know its more hurtful when folks like you butt into the matters of your relatives and other people who have daughters and keep inquiring about their marriage. You even keep your eyes and ears open to find a good boy for your daughter, you keep asking others to look for good “boys”, to whom marriage will be a social status for the family. You even force your daughters to get in touch with these “eligible bachelors” so that they can catch a big fish in the net. So smart na. If not arranged marriage, then arrange a marriage.

The current conversion of dowry to “gift” is so convenient. Instead of cash, now parents ask for fridges, ACs, bikes, cars, etc. And its an accepted norm. Even if not specified, it is assumed by both ends that something will be provided on the day of the marriage. Some of you even conveniently time your request, asking for a “gift” right before the day of the wedding.   After all, it’s all for the girl itself!  Now which girl’s parent would want her marriage to break up a day before the wedding? If that happens, she will never find another match! Look at you blushing in glee. Of course, you know that. Smart asses you all have, don’t you. So, when I say you’re buying a legal prostitute for your son, does that anger you? Why shouldn’t it, this is a transaction for buying sex for your son, isn’t it?

Beloved parents, as much as your children love you, don’t think they are fooled by your “conservative” bent of thinking. And unfortunately for you, today women are becoming educated in the right way. And they talk. Much to your dismay. Leave your sons unmarried folks, because one day a woman like me might just become a victim of your machinations, but will not be put down by your daily nonsense. If you think your methods will carry on for generations to follow, then I am sorry to say uncles and aunties, this is the 21st century. We have better things to do. And your daughters obviously don’t want their daughters treated like garbage bags. But then, you all are caring, you will pressurise your daughter to produce a son after marriage to please her in-laws, won’t you? Ole le. And you think that’s so adorable ain’t it. You’re fulfilling your duties as a parent even after marriage.

Hoped you loved my letter and I am assuring you there will be more to follow 🙂

Jai Hind.

And please don’t watch the new All India Bakchod video on marriages and laugh your asses off if you can’t get the satire. Idiots.

How hard is it to follow your passion?

“I want to follow my passion”, I remember telling my parents 8 years ago, when I completed my secondary school examinations. And my passion was Humanities, a subject I always loved and which loved me back. I was never very fortunate with Science and Maths, always faring badly in every exam, much to the dismay of my parents.

My father, unsurprisingly, had noticed the maddening urge in me to pursue my discipline and always stood by my side. My mother, unconvinced at first, was happy to see me happy to pursue what I always wanted to do.

8 years later, where do I stand? I am doing History, a subject I love, and by freak chance, I landed up with the right subject at University – a subject that fit my personality. History is as volatile as me, it is as multi- faceted as I want it to be. Coming back to the eternal question – where do I stand?

Now, in this corporate world (lets just call it corporate, capitalism hasn’t really managed to do otherwise), what we are in dire need of, is development, in all directions. And I belong to India – which really needs an industrial model right now, given its longing drive for development in all sectors of the economy.

So, where do I stand? What can I say? After 8 years of studying Humanities, when I now apply for a job, everywhere I am asked the question – What skills do you have? How can you apply them to your job? I never thought about “inculcating” job- related skills back in college- I just diligently studied, as any other student along side me did. I scored good marks, I got into a good University for my Masters. But skills? Wasn’t that the forum of Engineering graduates, who are expected to have industrial skills?

The confusion and dichotomy that society has thrown me under, truly makes me doubt myself now. Education is not supposed to be a business – but then education which does not empower you to earn your bread and butter, isn’t really doing much for you, right? And for people like me, who do not wish to pursue a career in academics or the civil services – where do we fit in?

Jobs are limited – candidates are more. The Western world has saturated its need for Humanities graduates, and the East does not need them. India is looking for STEM graduates – Science, Technology, Engineering and Management graduates, who can “help build” the company and give it a new “direction”. So does this mean those who followed their passion are fools? Or incapable of building and constructing new ideas?

I don’t know. I honestly wish I did.

I remember harbouring a dream to pursue a singing career as a child but didn’t take it up, as the field seemed too risky. Now, when I look back, I realize I committed a mistake by not following my first passion. But, when I give it a thought, I wonder – what if success came to me very, very late? How long would I have lasted? It all boils down to a question of time. In an age when success is required early, especially to prove your mettle and worth- where do people who follow their passion stand? There are people who follow what they despise and finally take a U- turn to finally pursue what they always wanted to. But mostly, such people, whom I have encountered are engineers or management graduates, who have something to ‘fall back upon’, if they do not manage to ‘succeed’ in the “true-est” sense of the term.

There is a saying – a person who doesn’t fear, succeeds. But what about those people who have no fear, but fear, fear itself? It’s a hard world out there – and support is limited. It is easy to follow your passion, but very difficult to live it.

That does not mean one shouldn’t follow what they want to. I never regret my decision. I just wish the world was kinder. And there were some places which did not specify that only certain people have the necessary credentials for a particular kind of function. Those who follow their passion are winners, because they weren’t afraid to stand out. The day the world sees this, will be the day when no one will pigeon- hole themselves in ‘societal pressure’. I am looking for a utopia, but it is at least better than a harsh reality.

On this note, I would just like a share a video I recently saw of Ashoka University, where noted Modern Indian History scholar Rudrangshu Mukherjee talks about bridging the historical divide between education and “business” education. It is disagreeable in parts, but at least someone is talking about something we need to know! 🙂

Learning to learn, and manipulating education.

In 2011, there was an uproar in Delhi University, when an academic article by linguist A.K Ramanujan (no, this is not the mathematician), was removed from the B.A Program course, because it hurt ‘religious sentiments’.

The article was called, ‘300 Ramayanas, five examples and three thoughts on Translation’. It was about the various interpretations of the Ramayana and how the Ramayana did not belong to just one community. Though the removal didn’t directly affect the students of the History (Honours) course, there was an uproar in the History faculty. This move was labelled as an attack on education, especially restriction of the social sciences, that questioned basic things like religion.

This was the first time I had seen such a huge academic uproar against a small move, and I was also surprised to see the huge amount of support the removal had amongst certain groups of people. I distinctly remember reading the statement of a Hindi Honours professor – “This article says that Hanuman is a playboy and Ram and Sita are brothers and sisters – we can’t let our students read this.”



Of course, we can’t. After all, how many students will be able to accept their Gods as playboys and incestuous couples?

For me, Ram is an incarnation of Lord Krishna. I have grown up reading Tulsidas’s Ramayana, which talks about an evil Ravana, who kidnaps the innocent Sita and how Ram saves his wife by killing the invincible Ravana, with the help of Monkey warriors, Sugreev and Hanumana. But, has any one ever given a thought as to why this is the only version we read? Why didn’t we grow up reading the Thai version of the Ramayana? Or the Buddhist one?

Knowledge spreads. It can’t be bound to a root, like our thoughts. Our stories/mythologies have crossed borders, entertained various people beyond India, but why is it so hard to accept that?

I decided to read up some more on this ‘Ramayana’ problem. I went and accessed academic books, took out the first book I found on the library shelf on the multiple interpretations of the Ramayana.

The first version hinted about a relationship between Lakshmana and Sita, while Ram was away in his ‘harem’, and the second version talked about how Lakshmana had actually cut of Surpanakha’s (Ravana’s sister) breasts instead of her nose.

I had to keep the book down and breathe. Because I was scandalized.

It’s natural to be unable to accept the truth when you have been fed a lie for your whole life. And it was very, very difficult for me to accept the various versions of the Ramayana. I somehow connected to the surging anger of the people on the ‘other side’. I understood their viewpoint that only those people should read this article who are able to read it, it shouldn’t be shoved down the throats of ‘innocent’ students.

Of course it shouldn’t. Freedom is a personal choice. But what I understand is – If an article like this is included in the syllabus, it is actually an eye opener for people like me disillusioned about life. This kind of article is related to life in general – we perceive life as a bed of roses, only to discover thorns in between.

Schools are the first pogrom of manipulations. Subjects like science and maths don’t shape plurality in opinion – politics and history do. And some people have already understood that generations ago, because of which history textbooks have become the subject of propaganda.

Take for example the Palestine crisis. How many school students know that Palestine as an issue is not just related to the Jews cry for a homeland, but also the slow eviction of Arabs from their own lands since the 18th century by the Jews themselves? How many school students know that the 1857 revolt of Indian ‘independence’ is actually just a small revolution, centered around certain areas of India like Awadh, and is not exactly a national event? Ravana was a great scholar, the Mahabharata is a classic text of manipulation mastered by Krishna – how many students are willing to stand up and claim that they know this?
No, no student is taught so much, because these kind of things are dangerous. It can force a student to form multiple opinions. Sadly by the time a child reaches college level- most of them abandon Historical research and end up formulating absolutely biased opinions about most of the world – because their foundation is biased in the first place.

I believe education can really help a child. But education can also ruin a child, making them corrosive, adamant and biased. All those psychologists looking for tips on understanding children – check their textbooks in the first place.

There is a saying – History is a biased form of storytelling. But honestly, a historian’s lens is a big responsibility to handle, as it requires absolute impartial, objective views. Those who are accused to be historians affiliated to the BJP, Congress, and other parties are not really supporting anyone – they are simply presenting facts of History. But those manipulating these facts and projecting themselves as “official historians” of a particular political regime – aren’t historians, they are academic cheats.

In India, the biggest field of concern right now, is ancient India. India has been looking to its past for inspiration for quite some time now, and Ancient India is a dangerous and volatile field. We attribute hero status to King Ashoka, we aspire to be scholars like Chanakya – and there are people working hard to prove these points of theory correct. Harappa and Mohenjodaro – the biggest Harappan civilization sites are actually located in Pakistan, but India, in a desperate attempt to declare one of the world’s ‘first’ civilizations its own is trying to find newer and ‘bigger’ Harappan sites within India.

But what if the Harappan script is someday deciphered and it is found out that this civilization is not really a civilization in the first place? How many people will have access to that information?

Information should be freely available in this current cyber age, but what is astonishing that we tend to rely on Google search that turns up what every other biased personality – like you and me is looking up over the internet. We are losing our originality, and relying on agents that will misuse our ignorance.

My fellow friends who are not Historians – please don’t treat History as something that can be learnt by just reading multiple books. Sometimes our clouded understanding disillusions us to such an extent that we end up reading only those things that we ‘believe’ in, and leave out the others that ‘challenge’ our thinking.

History?! Really?! Why?!

A statement I have to constantly hear when I tell people I read History in college is – How do you manage to remember so many dates? Not that I am judging anyone, but I sometimes wonder why History is such a stereotyped subject. Agreed, it may have been the subject most of us slept through in school (I mostly attribute this to bad teaching), but I fail to understand why History is in general is considered so boring.

I mean we all book tickets to visit a historical place. We get excited on seeing a plaque commemorating a historical figure. We become so happy when we learn about our heritage. So, how can history be boring?

I have faced days when I have slept in classes, or slept in the library because the book I was reading was extremely boring. But does that make everything about History boring? It’s very unfortunate that one bad experience bitters us for life. For what I am about to tell you is a realization most people don’t understand that they have had over the course of their short span of life.

There are days in our life when we remember the past. And we should, because the past constructs our behaviour in the present. We all try to learn from our mistakes, and try to reform ourselves to be a ‘better’ person. Every new year is a resolution – to not commit the mistakes we did last year. Every year is a revelation – of our faults, mistakes and our good qualities. Then, if we refer to the past so much, how does studying it make it so boring?

History, and humanities in general are not subjects generally preferred by students (and parents) for getting people jobs. I mean, how will reading about Hitler get me a job at Goldman Sachs? He was an evil man, who did evil things, everyone knows that, what’s there to study?

I recently met a woman during a train journey who was highly fascinated to know how I memorise the huge number of Russian and Arabic (she actually said Arabic- my only thought was, is she serious?) names I study. The general stereotype is – remember names and remember dates. Memorise them, write them in the exam and move on. My subject sounds like a casual date whom I should simply kiss and move on, because a relationship won’t really work out between us in the first place.

Am I bitter? No. I am just sure that what most people believe, is what I do too – but from a different perspective. I do find what I do boring in bits and pieces – but that’s because that period of history doesn’t interest me. I do have to remember loads of names, but that’s only for a General Knowledge quiz, not for my University exam.

Learning a humanities subject doesn’t make you an esoteric personality who just walks around in baggy jeans smoking a cigarette, talking big but not doing anything. It makes you understand that the world around you is still stuck in the back of the past, while you have an opportunity to move on.

If you ever do book tickets to go to see the Taj Mahal in India or the Buckingham Palace in London, or the Grand Canyon in USA, you know that it’s a beautiful creation of mankind and it’s a ‘tourist attraction’. But have you ever given a thought that there would have been no tourist attraction had the people back then behaved like us today? Had Lincoln said, I don’t care about history, let slavery be, would it ever had been abolished? Had Mahatma Gandhi not begun the non- violence movement and treated it as an ideology that one should only read in books, then would India have ever achieved independence, making Gandhi the most revered leader in the modern age?

We all want to create history. That’s how we are connected to history. We all come to live this short life to create History. We may not become a Gandhi, a Marilyn Monroe or a Malala (yes, I believe she has an important place in history, because she is a living example of a western media created icon), but we all can make a change to life in general by not being so complacent about it.

There is a need to look beyond what we think. We all believe what the ‘general people’ say, but I believe experiencing something on your own is far more important that just hearing about it. The United States and United Kingdom have succeeded in creating respect for the Humanities, connecting people in every way possible to the history of their country. But in Asia, with a population striving for development and industrialization, humanities education is just seen as a waste of resources and time as it is a relentless pursuit for writing and reading something completely useless for securing a job or developing the country. I am not generalising, I just believe this is a mentality ingrained in a lot of people I have met (and I am fortunate to have met people from Singapore, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.).

Not just Asia, but the world in general needs to understand how connected we are to what everyone does. If an engineer can build a bridge for you, a humanities student can connect you to your heritage, can build you a world where you can understand the failings of humanity and solve the current world’s crisis. But lack of awareness is indeed leading the world nowhere.

Africa is the place where all of Humanity began, the Middle East is a region with immense history, especially with regards to women rights. But stereotypification in this connected world of the internet is making us more and more inert. It is making us retreat to a smaller bubble of generalisations and typifications and there is a need to move beyond what we read over the internet to understanding the situation using our common sense. Don’t assume Ebola is everywhere, the countries mostly affected by it are Sierra Leone, Liberia – most countries in West Africa. Go and read medical articles and NGO bulletins, which show the amount of help being given by doctors around the world to eradicate the disease, and how some of them have actually succeeded. Don’t label all Muslim countries as backward or conservative – Egypt has had an immense history of women’s movements, women activists like Doria Shafik advocated suffrage rights for women in the 1940’s (That’s before the independence of many non- Muslim countries around the world). For some women in the Middle East, veiling during the 19th and 20th century became a symbol of feminism, or asserting their right over their body.

History is not just what we read in the books. History is interpreted by anyone, any way they want, and instead of just hear say, go out there in the world and try to understand why people say what they say and how we can say what we want to say by not sounding corny or being unapologetically stupid. And by going ‘out there’, I don’t mean buying a ticket and flying to Syria or Israel right away- I mean getting yourself out of that tiny bubble and becoming aware that we are more connected than we have ever been and generalizations are meant to be undermined.

History is really a knowledge to be had and disseminated. So, the next time if you wish to ask someone how many dates they had to remember while reading History, remember to not ask such a question again. 🙂