Last Sunday, at an old friend’s house, I picked up a book by the celebrated writer-activist-politician Arun Shourie – “Worshipping False Gods”. One would recall that in this book, Mr. Shourie has proceeded to demolish the benevolent halo around the much revered dalit leader - Baba Saheb Ambedkar by submitting certain historical facts – or fiction, as your point of view might be.
During my return journey from the office today, I was ruminating about the book, and remembering the infuriating response to this book at the time of its release, when a strange contradiction in our collective behaviour struck me. Let me elaborate.
It is an accepted fact that history of our nation, let alone the world, does not interest us as a nation. We are after all a young country, in pursuit of a happy future ahead. If I remember correctly, a recent survey by a magazine pointed out that about 60% of our young generation were completely bereft of any historical knowledge and perspective on even the most rudimentary topics and whats more, hardly had any inclination for it. Barring for the academicians and for some other exceptions, history it seems is considered best left alone in sixth standard school books. Almost all our historical monuments, museums lie in ruins and proclamation of a BA in History generally does not grant you a second glance in exalted company.
But while there is a total atmosphere of apathy towards our history as in facts, we cling to & worship history as in humans, so much so that we sacrifice even the genuine facts on the altars of our (mis) placed beliefs. We brazenly engage in hero-worship, aided by the glorious fables attributable to them over the ages. Our identification with them is so complete and total that we close our eyes to any reason and if some one dares to even so much as to propose even a slight deviation from the popularly accepted version of the personality, in stead of questioning the facts, we proceed with the “shoot the messenger” attitude.
Why this apparent contradiction? Is it because we are not mature enough to take criticism in a more forthright manner? Or is it because each one of us is afraid of losing his/her moorings in this already mad world? Or is it because as long as it is “his-story” it is none of my business?