Of discoveries – accidental and historical

“Did you know that Aurangazeb had laid siege this fort, for close to a decade?”, he asked me. I did not, actually. I had vague memories of visiting the place more than once, as a child. My mother reminds me that we went there as a family, which I am unable to recall in much detail.

What started, for me, as an unknown journey, turned out as all such sojourns do, into a most delightful time of learning – about places & people – historical, and more contemporary. In the end, it was as much a journey within, for the so called travel was only a context. All life is but a journey of continual exploration of the recesses deep within us, with every passing day taking us into a deeper, yet unexplored part of ourselves.

I did realize too, and thanks to one of the finest storytellers I have had the good fortune to meet, that history isn’t all that boring. I took time to remember my own school days, and realized, not for the first time, that I never liked it back then. As it turns out for many of us, the subjects / disciplines that we most like (and by extension, dislike) are influenced largely, though certainly not only, by those who taught us these in our youngest years. As I remember it, the subject was then presented as a large collection of so called ‘facts’ from the past. And I did not understand the need to know, leave alone memorize these.

Today, thanks to my own inclination to read fueled in part by my avowed profession, I know that there is a lot more to history than what it seemed back then. Another chance encounter, this time with a book, led me to delve deeper.

The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.

Much as it may be a somewhat strenuous read, especially to the ‘non academic mind’, I would still recommend it to anyone interested in History. And I digress, as the train of thoughts flow from an account of my travels, to stories of the place to history in general.  It did occur to me, as I was listening from my friend on nuggets of rich insights from the past, that History was also about stories. Who doesn’t like a story? And I thought it ironical that such a wonderful opportunity for learning, must be squandered away by schools in the name of education. In my case, it was ironical that having lived in its vicinity all my childhood, and having been ‘educated’, I still was unaware of the most fascinating stories behind what was apparently termed as the ‘most impregnable fortress’ by none other than the Chatrapati himself.

As I learn more, I have learnt that learning, if anything is a joyful process of discovery. And that most importantly, this quest in many ways, innate in human beings. If anything, educators need only find ways of fostering this quest in young minds.

As it happens, there was more learning in store for me. I discovered, as a subject, a participant in discussions thought not necessarily as one who may be actively engaged in it myself – photography. I had not indulged in it very much, except having used a ‘point and shoot’, at various points in time. I never wanted to shoot pictures of friends & relatives, of people posing. I remember, during my early travel with friends from college, when people would not be interested in my photographs. To them, they were simply ‘picture postcards’. I must have dozens of them, lying around somewhere, all in print. Those were the times when one would click photographs and wait nervously for them to be developed and printed. Another vestige from the past.

This time around though, I learnt that not only did I not hestitate, but I actually enjoyed ‘posing’. I write this, as I view some of the pictures that were clicked, and I see varying degrees of candidness in each of them. Much as I had indeed posed for them, both the subject and the artiste straining to get the right pose now, the right lighting then, and much time passed in between those moments. Looking back, it was perhaps a discovery that the joy lay in the entire process – of clicking away, posing, trying, and watching the product of our creation. Much as the artiste may pride himself on his work, I discovered, that in those moments, the artiste, the tool and the subject, all merged into one a blur. And in that blur, there was learning for me.

IMG_2527 - Version 2Picture Courtesy: Atul Sabnis

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