On History

In a recent public lit festSidin Vadukut announced his intention of writing a book on Indian history. In reply to an audience question, he described an Indians typical understanding of history as being one where India had this golden period, that was disrupted by the Mughals and then another smaller golden period disrupted by the British and now of being a country headed again towards a golden period. I confess that this had been my view of Indian history too.

This changed fundamentally first when I read an article by Sanjay Subrahmanyam in the Outlook. Following this, I watched a video on YouTube video of a talk that Subrahmanyam gave. In it he outlines various perceptions that different peoples had depending on the various routes that people took to get to India. My own perception is that this influenced greatly our history. Our history is not extraordinary. It is simple and straightforward.

With this new insight in the back of my head, I have begun re-reading Ramchandra Guha’s book India After Gandhi. The book I am looking forward to next is Ananya Vajpeyi’s The Righteous Republic. Whilst waiting for Sidin’s book, I am currently enjoying his podcast series, A New Republic, around the history of the Indian Constitution. All three play with timelines beginning with the Indian Constitution, before or after it. As we celebrate the birth anniversary of it’s architect, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, it is time, perhaps to take another look at Indian history through a new glass.

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