Sunday 4 September 2011

1947- Earth

http://neha2.tripod.com/movies/1947c.jpg

Shanta – Nandita Das

Ice Candy Man, Dilnawas – Aamir Khan

Mallishwallah, Hassan – Rahul Khanna

Lenny – Maia Sethna

The film is based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel Ice Candy Man (1988), which was later republished as Cracking India (1991). To write a sociological analysis of a film is often difficult as one needs to separate the technicalities and aesthetics of filmmaking from the sociological perspectives. Aesthetically 1947 Earth remains true to the art of filmmaking. Based in Lahore during the Partition of India , the story is about an ayah Shanta and the two men - Ice Candy Man, Dilnawas and the Malishwallah, Hassan who vie for her love, told through the lens of an 8 yrs. old girl Lenny.

This story plays itself out amidst the rising political, social and religious tensions in India. The mainstay of the film is the change in Lahore and its people, as the Partition date draws near. Deepa Mehta captures the landscape of Lahore in deep earthy shades of orange and yellow in peacetime. This changes when a train from Gurdaspur arrives in the middle of the night filled with Muslim corpses and Lahore turns into Dante’s inferno. In the same way she captures the change in social relations when the melting pot of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus that make up Lahore change from friends to foes while coping with the loss of identity that the Partition creates.

A. R. Rahman’s music not only has standalone value but also propels the film forward without overpowering the screenplay. He skilfully uses the ambient sounds of slogan chanting and marching as a background score. The success of the film though lies in its cast, which in spite of being illustrious are enveloped by their respective roles. Each character shines through no matter how small or big. Nandita Das is so earthy and realistic in her portrayal of a coquettish maid, Rahul Khanna speaks through his eyes and intense screen presence, Kitu Gidwani and Aarif Zakaria play the archetype gentle Parsi couple who strive to remain neutral amidst the chaos of choosing sides, that surrounds them, Gulshan Grover shows the passage of transition from an arrogant wealthy Sikh to a man humbled by the trails of Partition, Raghuvir Yadav brings out the helplessness of the weaker people in society that have no choice but to conform and comply to larger social forces while Aamir Khan as usual is outstanding in his portrayal of the ultimate ‘Beheroopiya’ one day an Ice Candy man next a Parrot Seller or a Sufi Saint, eventually transforming in a shocking avatar towards the climax.

A Sociological Perspective:

Some films reinforce stereotypes; some reject them while others reflect stereotypes. 1947 Earth does all three through an eclectic ensemble of characters and their portrayal.

In 1947 the departing British rulers, in collaboration with the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League announced the Partition of India into Muslim ruled Pakistan and Hindu dominated India. The worst repercussions of this decision were felt in Punjab - a state straddled between the two imagined nations. Hence Lahore, its capital city, becomes the bloody theatre of what is often described as the worst manmade disaster in the latter half of the century.

Lenny the crippled girl from an affluent Parsi family in Lahore is around whom the events pivot. Between the assortment of people that her family and her beautiful nanny attract, Lenny gains insight into the social interactions of not only the Muslim , Hindus and Sikhs that formed the cultural milieu of Lahore but also the affluent families and their timorous ties with the British which form the upper crust of Lahore society.

The first part of the film establishes the stereotypes. The Parsis, a religious sect that immigrated to India in the 9th century, strive to remain neutral and ‘invisible’ due to their dwindling population, as Lenny’s mother explains to her. The dinner table banter immediately identifies the ‘angry Sikh’ while the joke about the Indian man in the train drinking his own urine reinforce the idea of the Hindu element of the State, owing to its association with Hindu practices.

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Shanta being a dusky village belle of sorts attracts men of all caste, creeds and trades around her. Apart from the Ice- Candy Man and the Mallishwallah, is a Hindu gardener Hariya, the Sikh zookeeper – Sher Singh and the Muslim butcher. Even the allocation of jobs remains true to type between the men. What struck me as unusual though is the ease and openness with which Shanta- a Hindu girl, interacts with this group of men, those too largely Muslim. This doesn’t hide the Chauvinistic and Patriarchal character of society though which is highlighted by instances like Shanta being called a loose women in whispers, the child marriage of Lenny’s lower caste playmate to an old Christian man and the censure a young boy receives because his mother was raped and killed. Inspite of this, Shanta’s relative independence and Kitu Gidwani’s strong character, be it driving her husband around or hosting parties, shows somewhat liberal space available to women in that society.

As the date of Partition draws closer the friendly banter, both across elegant dinner tables and rustic dhabas, changes into anger and rivalry. An interesting bit is when the Sufi saint, culturally accepted by all religions in the Indian subcontinent, is disputed as ‘my saint’ and ‘your saint’ by the quarrelling Muslim and Sikh groups. The familiarity of Lenny’s world changes completely when a train arrives from Gurdaspur filled with corpses of Muslims. This is the turning point of the film where social rules are turned upside down as identities evolve. Allegiances change with the polarization of identities. Religious identity takes precedence over national identity and breaks bonds of kinship. This episode throws up many questions. What is the glue that holds society? Which identity comes first? It seemed to me that while for some their religion took precedence, for others their ethnicity and ties to the territory they belonged were stronger. Here then does region define religion or is it the other way round? While some flee and some fight, the weaker sections of society like Hariya have no choice but to comply with the larger societal forces around them. That is why maybe the majority of the Hindus who stayed behind in the newly created Pakistan were the Dalits.

With this breaking of stereotype what shines through is the reaction of Lenny to the events around her. She has a morbid curiosity about Dilnawas’s sisters who were massacred, is uninhibited about sharing cake with the Muslim boy who’s mother was raped and affronted that her birthday celebrations take a backseat in these troubled times. It goes to show that stereotypes are learnt. While Lenny had learnt the social practice of celebrating her birthday and held it important, she yet had to grasp the concepts of communal differences and gender biases.

Dilnawas whose sisters were amongst the corpses in the train highlights the change in the nature of men when pushed beyond the point of endurance. Seeing Shanta with Hassan breaks the last of his resistance, the consequences of which are horrifying for everyone involved. What happens in the end is anarchy. Much like the French Revolutions and its decent into anarchy that led to Emile Durkheim’s attempts to find the social glue that would bring back order to society. The climax of the film is a mirror that reflects how deep inbuilt stereotypes run.

Above all the film addresses the deep damage that colonialism can wreak even long after the foreign overlords are gone. In the historical contexts, the colonial forces for their own gain had stoked cultural and ethnic divisions between communities that had co existed more or less peacefully for centuries like the Muslims and Hindus in the subcontinent. The film portrays the violence between the respective groups occurring in the vacuum left behind when the white folks from the West who created the tinderbox lit the fuse and then abruptly withdrew.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY SHEHLA

shehla masood
The first I heard of Shehla Masood was through my uncle Shankar Ghosh, a friend of hers. I was looking for a job and Kaku said Shehla, a wildlife activist could always use help with her work. It seemed ideal and I wrote to her but before she could reply I landed a job with a news channel and moved to Bombay. Following her closely through the internet and other social networking sites like many other, one could see her energy and extensive knowledge burst through every post.
The last I remember of her was while editing footage that had arrived from Bhopal to the news studio during the first Anna Hazare fast for the Lokpal Bill in April 2011. Through the reams of footage from every part of India suddenly her face jumped into frame. She had, like always, gathered a huge crowd in Bhopal and sat in solidarity with Anna. The reporter thrust the mike under her nose and she said with quiet fire, “we support the Lokpal, it is necessary.” “What is your name,” asked the reporter. ‘Shehla Masood.’ The reporter let the mike linger but Shehla had had her say. A true activist, she wasn’t in it for personal glory, trying to put herself before the issue by playing for the camera. Hence her footage was not ‘masala enough’ for our fiery news channel looking to catch eyeballs and her ‘byte’ went unaired.
Kaku just arrived home this morning, enroute to Bhopal to meet Shehla a day before the Wildlife Photography Exhibition she had organized on the 19th of August. Needless to say we are shocked and heartbroken.
RIP Shehla Masood ... friend, fighter and a thoroughly brave lady. It's taken less than 24hrs after Independence D for the Indian government to rear its ugly head and put Indians to shame. On one hand Anna Hazare is arrested for peaceful protests and on the other Shehla murdered in Bhopal for her courageous work as an RTI and Wildlife Activist. Shivraj Singh, the Forest Department, Land Mafia, Tiger Mafia and the entire state machinery is responsible for this cowardly act.

I am proud to be an Indian. Happy Independence Day.” - Shehla Masood, 15 August, 2011 ( Facebook)

Gandhi “the purpose of civil resistance is provocation”. Anna has succeeded in provoking the Govt and the Opposition. Hope he wins us freedom from corruption. Meet at 2 pm Boat Club Bhopal” - Shehla Masood, 16 August, 2011 few minutes before her martyrdom ( Facebook)

"We suspect that the considered timing of her elimination during the ongoing anti-corruption campaign when she was on her way to support Anna Hazare’s fast is meant to overshadow the issue of illegal Diamond mining project in Chhattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh by Rio Tinto and the political Mafiosi." http://kafila.org/2011/08/16/statement-on-the-martyrdom-of-shehla-masood/

“About 35 years old, Shehla was still sitting in the driver's seat when she was attacked; however, no one heard any gun shot. When the car didn't move for a while, the family members came out only to find that she had collapsed on one side with blood oozing out from her chest. “

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Anna-Hazares-supporter-and-RTI-activist-shot-dead-in-Bhopal/articleshow/9622139.cms

Sunday 31 July 2011

Monday Morning Blues

Pillars of Creation refers to a photograph taken by the Hubble Telescope of elephant trunks of interstellar gas band dust in the Eagle Nebula. The leftmost pillar was about four light years in length. The finger-like protrusions at the top of the clouds were larger than our solar system . The Pillars of Creation no longer exist. In 2007, the astronomers announced that they were destroyed about 6,000 years earlier by the shockwaves from a supernova.

All of this makes you feel so insignificant. Like another excuse for why bother waking up on a Monday morning. We are just one teeny-tiny part of one of the planets in one of the solar systems in one of the galaxies in one of the universes, existing only in 3 dimensions anyway !

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillars_of_Creation

Wednesday 29 June 2011

TOMATO CREAM PASTA

This is Pasta as it was originally meant to be. Hearty, simple and slurpalicious.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add a little salt and few drops of oil.

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Dump in the pasta, approximately 3 times more water than pasta. Boil for about 10-15 min for the much lauded ‘al dente’ firmness.

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Rinse it with cold water, drain and keep aside. At this point of time marvel at the dexterity it takes to click a picture with steam clouding the lens while being careful not to drop the hot pot of Pasta on your foot OR the camera into the boiling water.

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Heat an equal amount of butter and olive oil in a pan.

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Add 5-6 cloves of minced garlic and one large, finely chopped onion into the sizzling mixture

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Once things brown a bit add whimsical amounts of oregano, basil, pepper , chilli flakes and whatever other Italian spice makes your skirt fly.

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Add two diced tomatoes, more or less depending on the amount of pasta thats cooking. Let things simmer for a bit.

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Tear open a box of Tomato Puree and add to the mix. A heavenly scent should permeate the kitchen by now.

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Adjust the seasonings, add a little sugar to combat the sour tomatoes. Then to really get things going, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese. Not being a food snob, I just happened to have a gifted jar of Parmesan at home. Amul works just fine too. Infact I'm a big fan of Amul, Dr Verghese Kurien , Milk Co ops and the White Revolution. Britannia may go to the devil. Evil, synthetic tasting phoren muck.

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Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes till it approaches liquid consistency. Turn off the gas and let it cool for about 2 min. Now comes the kicker, to the red hot sauce add a cup of cream. Watch it turn into a smooth and sublime, creamy, orange sauce.

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Slurrrppp……

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Add the pasta to the sauce.

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Toss it gently to coat all the pasta.

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Pour into a pretty bowl and sprinkle some more cheese.

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Scarf it down with toasted French bread if you can wait to cut yourself a slice or just slurp it up plain.

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Smile

Saturday 4 June 2011

Big City Life: Bombay Local

The third thing that hits you after stepping into Bombay is the loss of personal space, the first two being the heavy humid air and the peculiar smell of Bombay. The three, combined with a view of dirty vehicles, stained buildings and metro-sexual males as far as the eye can see make me want to take a U-Turn back home to the cooler, cleaner, spacious climes and rugged people I am used to.To have been born, lived and died in Bombay means not to have lived at all. So deep and unshakable was my dislike for the city that a wise Aunt once prophesied 'If you feel so strongly about it, you just see, God will one day send you to Bombay only' and that only happened. 
 
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Tramping the roads in search of a room and jarred by the astronomical rents, I ended up in a Punjabi society in the hell hole of ‘Chakala’ with a room in an old lady's bungalow. The room, as an architectural friend would later tell me, was an illegal windowless partition in the kitchen. A big bed dominated the space, around which a chair, 2 shelves and a tiny desk were squeezed like lagoons encroaching on an island. A tiny grainy TV perched precariously on the shelves. All my needs could be met by just reaching out my hand from the bed. The bathroom was a hop away. Every morning I would wake up to 16x20 framed marriage pictures of my landlady’s 3 bearded Sikh sons and their decked up wives grinning down at me from each wall of the room. Also the old lady turned out to be a pill-popper, which meant serious Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome depending on when she was on her drugs and off them. All in all I was glad to stay out of the house most times and get involved with work and studies and take in the city one slow epiphany after another.
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The first was to learning train travel. The first time I clambered onto a train my brain froze. It is unnerving to suddenly find the control of your body and limbs in the the hands of the masses pushing and pulling at you. As clichéd as it sounds, big cities is when the enormity of the population of India and the havoc mobs can cause hits you. On the trains, buses, streets, everywhere hundreds of bodies brush past you. To stop walking or moving in anyway is inviting disaster in Bombay.
By the third train ride you will be a pro, though somewhat baffled at how so many young women get on and off the coach same time as you looking perfectly groomed, while you look like,well... a train wreck. A friend and I used to take the Churchgate Fast to South Bombay often. Although broke and bewildered by the big city, South Bombay's balmy breeze and colonial architecture worked like revitalizing magic on people starved for beauty in the hellhole that is Andheri East. We hobbled aimlessly through the streets of South Bombay, saving taxi money to blow up at Leopold or having spent everything sitting for hours watching the sunset at Marine Drive. Hundreds of other girls walked around us perfectly groomed and as my friend put it, in a bubble of their own, seeming untouched by the humidity and pollution.
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But one learns, observes the ladies compartment of the Churchgate Fast full of capacious handbags that carry a change of shoes from slippers to high heels, make up, hairbrushes, food, water, facewash, sometimes change of clothes and basically a survival kit good for a week after the Apocalypse. After becoming members of NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts) we used the NCPA's luxurious bathrooms as our pit stops after the train travel and even caught a play, photo exhibition or music recital occasionally.
Soon the trains journeys ironically enough were the highlight of my Bombay life. Even on the muggiest of days, hanging at the door with the sultry wind on your face made Bombay tolerable. But the best part was the woman’s compartment. It is like that drop of water , when put under a microscope contains an entire ecosystem? The Ladies coach in a Bombay local bursts with activity. Women working on laptops, reading magazines, chopping vegetables, selling homemade snacks, telling prayer beads, or praying from their pocket size prayer books. Especially during the exam months, the train would be full of college students cramming last minute and quizzing each other for Vivas. Groups of office ladies coming from Fort and Flora Fountain would share sweets celebrating someone’s engagement. The worst cat fights also took place in the ladies coach and this is where I picked up some of my more colourful language. I’ve travelled once or twice in the men’s compartment when running late. It wasn't half as much fun.
There are many memorable train rides, the crazy one taken at peak time in a typical Bombay deluge of rain with water pouring into the packed compartment.
The risky one while going to work on Holi with vividly coloured boys running in and out of the compartment playing loud Holi music. I envied their Bhang induced fun.
One of the most memorable train rides was during the World Cup finals India Vs. Sri Lanka being played at Wankhede. I was on my way to the Press Club for the second innings of the match and the streets , stations and trains of bustling Bombay were eerily empty. The few of us in the ladies compartment smiled ruefully at our common plights making us travel when the rest of the nation was glued to their television sets. There was an air of camaraderie on the streets of Bombay. The radio was plugged into my ears as Sehwag came out to bat.
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The Churchgate fast always stops outside Wankhede for a few minutes , today being no different. As Wankhade came we all looked out of the window at the troops of soldiers and police personnel strung like wedding lights all over the stadium. Then into my ears Sehwag was bowled out and I gave vent to expletives startling the women around. ‘Sehwag gaya , second ball’ I explained. We all rushed to the train doors, Wankhede loomed before us like a silent spectre, stunned into silence by the Sri Lankan’s blow. Then Kholi hit a 4 and the stadium erupted in joy and some of the shrillest shrieks came from the ladies compartment of the Churchgate Fast outside Wankhede.
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Monday 30 May 2011

A Jar of Pickles

My grandmother passed away last year before the mango season started. It was the first death in my immediate family. One of the restrictions during this mourning period was that we could not cook food that day in our house. One hardly is in the spirit to eat , plus with all the people and hushed activity, dinner was a half hearted affair at 7.30pm and already a distant memory by nightfall.
At 1 am I cracked open my squeaky door as noiselessly as possible and tip toed into the kitchen only to bump into my Dad who looked as guilty rummaging through the kitchen cabinets. Kind friends and relatives had left an assortment of food and we hungry co-conspirators proceeded to compile a thoroughly Gujju midnight snack. Ever since Kareena Kapoor’s drunk cameo in 3 idiots disparaging Gujju food nomenclature, it pains me to justify my culinary heritage. After all, what is in a name, a ‘thepla’ will taste as satisfying if called thép- à- la.
As we hunted for the ideal accompaniment – ‘chunda’ ( tiny slivers of mango in a chutney that it sweet sour and spicy!) it dawned on us at the same time ‘she was the provider of pickles’ ! I don’t remember my grandmother ever cooking a meal but boy could she whip up scrumptious accompaniments to every meal! From tangy chutneys and jars of preserves to ghee dripping mithai and spicy snacks, but above all she was the provider of pickles. True to household tradition, every summer mangoes would be ordered, cut dried, salted,well pickled and bottled to last a whole year before the next mango season arrived.
Dad and I looked at each other and panicked, it was the end of a mango year. This time there would be no replenishing the stock. Smiling at the memories, we carefully spooned out a bit of the last pulpy layer of pickle from the jar.
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Sunday 29 May 2011

MATTAFIX

A dear friend Manavi Deopura wrote this a few years back for a student magazine that a couple of us had started called, THINKING LOUD. Like most such college endeavours once we graduated and moved to different cities the magazine died out. Along with it some wonderful articles on films, music, politics, news, travel and short stories. Manavi has always had a great taste in music and a pen that trips language over. This is one of those articles hidden in a dusty pile of old college memoribilia.

BREAKING BE

I did not think variation would come. I thought rap was rhythmic repetitive jingles. I disliked blues all along. The cloy catchiness, the overt gloominess and pointed doom of 'screwed-up lives', and 'how-ma-papa-left-me-n-mama-beat-me-n-girlfriend-ditched-me-n-wife-divorced-me' made my eyes glaze over with boredom. Metromaniacs 'spittin' fly n bustin' rhymes' had spat and busted enough.

But then, UK-based band Mattafix salvaged.

How much can an airport inspire you… or a road? Or buses or hotels, for that matter? Do they inspire a song in you? Or a melody? Do they inspire you to inspire? Itinerant lifestyles being the genesis of their generic music, Mattafix sing about people.

MATTAFIX

The duo( Marlon Roudette and Preetesh Hirji) explore mixing techniques and instruments, from steel drums to flutes. Raw and danceable, their song text and the oeuvre cover several different chambers of music – Reggae, Dancehall, Alternative Rock, Hip Hop/Rap, R&B, Soul, World, Jazz and Blues! Intelligent, thoughtful lyrics give voice their understated socio political commentary. As their official website says, “Mattafix have a unique ability to deliver important ideas with irresistible music.” Their music purges you of the commercial, the said and done, the trite and the sham.

With the wave of musicians turning war-protesters, they brewed up their share of the "war cinematography" too: the single "Living Darfur", taken from their second album, “Rhythm and Hymns”. With Mick Jagger furnishing the finances, the video, released on 7th September 2007. The video featured Matt Daemon and was available as a download only. The way they have chosen to rally support for peace in the region makes the video unique. It’s not about hopelessness or tortured souls trapped in those refuge camps.What with the dump heap of news channels overlapping news with scandal, laminating facts with emotions, and bloating up news by injecting their opinions in them – the band has just showed Darfur in all its truth. It's the status quo. It just is. It says, "These are the people. They are rolling under oppression, driven out of their homes, they are suffering. Yet they are smiling, playing ball, dancing, running. And then, full stop.

They are not struggling to break free. They are letting be.

I don't see them trying too hard. I don't see them trying to cash in on the miseries of a people; I don't see tears and the blood and thunder, a given accoutrement with any war-ridden video, born out of the director's need to buy the viewer's sympathies. It doesn't even mention sympathy. Their songs are about you. You. Me. Themselves. Yet detachment manages to seep in. Hoods and the caps are in place. But they don't rap the formulaic rap. Like a gloomy Kevin Little having a conversation with a Sean Paul on Valium, Marlon Roudette and Preetesh Hijri, (Mattafix) with riddims for pauses, using what they have to by way of acoustics, get cracking. No weeping lyrics, no wailing self pity. It just is what it is.

Just the way their music is what it is.

By Manavi Deopura

Monday 23 May 2011

HISTORY

Ocassionally one has to write essays/papers for undefined, unimportant reasons. These papers are long and winding and interesting only to the professor who corrects them, or maybe not. But having written them one needs outlets other than in the classroom. Hence the blog comes in handy, for every piece of writing banal or not that is ever written and to satiate the Id, Ego and Super Ego.

Not having any history is like having amnesia. If we did not know history we would have very little sense of identity, of our roots and origins and why we are the way we are. History helps us understand past circumstances that have created the present situation and more importantly how it might affect the future. One can understand cause and effect, of how important ideas and events played out and more. History is the key to understanding civilizations which is the key to understanding the society we live in today.

As Innis's erudite dissertation on Empires and Communications so clearly highlighted, the link between topography that gave rise to mediums of communication and how communication mediums in turn played a pivotal role in the development of societies, contributing to the rise and fall of empires in ancient civilizations. Each new medium, created a paradigm shift in the social conditions of the empires and gave birth to a new age of mankind, starting from papyrus to the present age of the printing press. This study makes it easier to speculate and predict the future of our society which is increasingly being defined by the internet. History gives us an anchor so we do not have to begin all over again.

Being a complex web of interacting events that took place in the past, by taking a step back and viewing history on a vast canvas we can identify patterns that have shaped our society. History therefore gives a point of reference to our existence. People can clearly understand how things are related to one another. We now know that while paper was invented by the Chinese in 104 AD the printing press was invented several centuries later in 1440 by John Gutenberg in Germany. The Bible being the first book that was mass printed and distributed would explain the quick spread of Christianity across different parts of the world as compared to the rest of religions, which in turn explains the Christian influences present in the laws and policies of today.

In the case of India a similar analogy would explain the influences of upper caste Hindus in the structuring of our society even today. The point is that unless we know the foundation of our society we cannot question or probe the accepted beliefs and social norms that we live within. To quote Gombrich, “you have to know what you are fighting against.” History helps us make the changes that need to be made.

Another important function of history is that it creates value. Without understanding the world we cannot understand the context in which we live. Every word written or article published, every creation of mankind relates to the past and aims at the future. So to appreciate what exists today one must know the conditions in which it was created. When I first saw an example of the paintings of the Impressionists, while admitting they were eye catching and beautiful it was still difficult to understand the exalted position that the Impressionist movement holds in history. It takes a look into the history of art for one to know that prior to the Impressionists, European painting was muted, conservative, conventional and covered in dusty browns and blacks, it is only then that one can appreciate the path-breaking technique of the Impressionists, the vibrancy and explosion of colour and movement in the paintings of Monet, Degas and Renoir. While originality does exist and is certainly a very important aspect of creation, even originality has meaning only within history. History helps in creating value and meaning in society.

History also gives us a sense of community as we share a common inheritance, be it linguistic, racial, national or with mankind as a whole. We can understand what it means to be in somebody else's shoes. We can better relate to the atmosphere and situation during the battle of Thermopylae to the World Wars, to understand the conditions of people during the slave trade and repression in history and then to be able to relate them to British colonization and the fear of persecution. We can get a better idea of what is was like to live in China during the Cultural Revolution or what it means to be an American. History defines people and places and enables them to understand one another through those definitions of culture, community ,language and race.

Lastly history is a question of curiosity and pleasure. L.P Hartley said that 'the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.' The past attracts us, we want to know of the time of Kings and Queens and how they lived, of great Statesman and priests and what they said and also of the common laborer and his life in ancient Egypt and what he endured. These stories fascinate us and unleash imagination. History inspires.

Considering that the uses and reasons of historical writings are manifold and have an impact on our thinking and actions it is crucial to understand the ways in which history is written and interpreted. The recorded version that we usually read is that of the survivor,the mightier, the one who was loud enough to be heard. What then happens to the lesser voices that lived through the same time? As a journalist especially it is extremely important to get a 360 degree view of any subject, including the past. Questions such as

-Who wrote the text?

-Who were they writing for?

-Why were they writing the text?

-When did they write it?

Hence social scientists try to see through the various methodologies by which history has been documented down the ages, so one may in future be able to record and analyze historical writing as objectively and truthfully as possible, free of manipulation and influence. Authors such as Joan Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob in their book 'Telling the Truth about History' point out three types of 'intellectual absolutism' that help better in understanding why the past is remembered the way it is.

The Age of Enlightenment , beginning in the early 18th century was a time when Religion gradually gave way to Science. An empirical method of collecting evidence and writing was favoured over narratives based on faith alone. The word of Scientists gained precedence over the word of religious heads. Historians using a value neutral methods acted as 'passionless investigators' and wrote history based on proven facts. The downside of this method was that it was a fragmented view of those times and conditions as it disregarded subjective viewpoints.

As the Age of Enlightenment gave way to a post modern society that focused on development, historians accepted that to objectively document history one must pay attention to the social circumstances that guide the actions of men and women. A study of this kind was more complex though as it meant that everything was viewed relatively, also, studying social conditions generated a huge amount of data to sift through. The post modernists also laid emphasis on words and the constraints of language which might create linguistic biases in historical writings. Many a times history is manipulated through the way the writer uses language and the true taste of that time is lost.

The last kind of absolutism that influenced historians is that of nationalism. History began to be recorded by keeping nation building in view. To give them a sense of identity historians wrote about present conditions while keeping in mind their place in comparison to the rest of the world. This breed of historians considered themselves to be 'practical realist' The authors also highlight natural science and human sciences, the verification of which come with similar challenges, except, in the case of human sciences the challenges are more as it is not a study that can be done in isolation, human nature being influenced by a myriad of circumstance.

In recent times we have alternate opinions and various people trying to rewrite history through their views and perspectives. We have the Revisionists who deny the Holocaust and proclaim it as a Zionist propaganda to gain sympathy, then there are the conspiracy theorists who have their own elaborate explanations about everything from the death of Princess Diana to Area 51, but history is not only based on perspectives and opinions but hard facts and such evidence that has survived the test of time. The survived evidence in itself may create a bias but in a much lesser degree than theories based on pure speculation.

In spite of all said and done, as the American historian Carl .L. Becker once said, “ All historians, even the most scientific have bias, if in no other sense than the determination not to have any.

Yet we try and persevere as each of us is part of history in the making.