Interest in the past is natural, almost organic but interest in history has to be cultivated.
A multiplicity of factors pieced together shape the development of a society and since human being constitutes an integral part of the society these have the same significance for the overall personality development of an individual.
Being a social animal, no man can live in isolation — away from fellow human beings — however, those lead a life of recluse may either be saint or beast.
People do need the company of fellow human beings to interact with in order to satisfy intellectual, social and also economic cravings. Such interaction has significant impact on the personality development of an individual.
For the literate and educated people, books or any written material also moulds the person’s life style and ideas about life.
Two persons — both of whom happened to be University teachers — have had a great impact in my attitude towards life. The first one had been my father, late Narendra Mohan who was a Reader in Political Science. He has left an indelible impression on me.
As a father he inculcated in me the socio-cultural values of the family as also of the society at large enabling me thereby to shoulder social responsibility. He acquainted me with his ideas on different facets of human life, however, he never tried to thrust his ideological perception on me nor did he coerce me to toe a particular line and thus helped me to grow as an individual evolving my own ideas about life.
This is also a reflection on the democratic character of our family; each member was given full freedom to choose his/her career and profession. It does not mean, however, that my father did not wield any restraining influence he did control us whenever it seemed to him that our adventure might turn out to be misadventure and would end in fiasco; but such occasions were rare.
Since he was in teaching profession teaching one of the subjects that I had taken at the graduation level he had an additional impact on me. He imparted me education and insight into the complex issues of social science equipping me with the skill to analyse them in a critical manner. It was only because of him that I was able to imbibe knowledge, insight and skill-the three basic functions of any education system.
While I was pursuing my research work for Ph. D. degree and was almost halfway through my father left for his heavenly abode leaving me in the lurch; his death was more than a personal loss to me. Throughout his life he remained a friend, philosopher and guide to me.
Another person who shaped me evolve as a person as well as a keen student of history has been the former Professor of History and my research supervisor Dr. Lal Bahadur Varma in the University of Allahabad. It was largely because of my association with Dr Varma that my idea about history, sense of history and historical knowledge underwent metamorphosis; I was under his research supervision for five years.
Dr.Varma is of the view that interest in the past and in History are not the one and the same thing. Interest in the past is natural, almost organic but interest in history has to be cultivated. One is like breathing naturally and the other like ‘Pranayam’ cultivates breathing to regulate and strengthen the functioning of body and mind.
But even history is not enough. One must cultivate a sense of history, a sense to relate past with the present and the future, a sense to understand the contradictions and movements of the society so that it could show the path of shaping the society.
According to him true history is neither a primacy of past politics nor negation of politics. It is neither making the economic base a fetish. History harbours neither heroes nor villains, but it does not deny the role of individuals who are the makers of society as also the products of history. It aims at understanding the particular as well as general in space as well as in time, and also the dynamics and the orientations of the changes in society.
He rightly subscribes to the view that in history writing proper and full use should be made of oral sources which consists in the traditions, customs, folklore, folk music, myths and also interviews — both of the persons involved and the onlookers of the event.
Similarly he is right when he says that literature of all sorts should be made use of in writing history as literature portrays the social, economic, political and cultural facets of human life which are also the concerns of history.
The most fascinating aspect of Dr. Varma’s character is that unlike many other educationists he seldom gives an occasion to feel that ideologically there exists difference between what he preaches and what he actually practices. And this makes him an ideal to be emulated.
As an educationist, he helped me enrich further historical knowledge as also insight and skill to analyse the subjects of history in critical manner so as to relate them with the present and the future. My association with him has helped me grow as a person both intellectually and otherwise. He too has been friend, philosopher and guide to me.
Image Courtesy: school.discoveryeducation.com
This teen story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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