The heritage of our past is something which we inherit from our ancestors in the form of culture and traditions. However, history may not always be the paragon of illustrious happenings, there are chances that it may perhaps be dark, ugly and bitter. Also, in the heterogeneous world like ours, where everyone has a vividly significant and different story or version of history, wouldn’t the past affront the relations of today?
Being a student of history, I’ve always wondered that why do we need to learn about our past? Is it because it helps to understand the profound meaning behind the inherited traditions and customs which are clung behind performance of holy rituals or is it because it provides a reason of celebration to those who live a useless life in the present and boast about their former glory in order to overshadow their inner-securities. Although initially the interpretations may appear to be somewhat material, but once you shed-off the fake mask of the fragile pride, you’ll realize that they’re too far from the reality.
Actually, those who’re considered as the ‘heroes’ of our past are termed simply as ‘cowards’ in the books of the other nationality. Similarly, people whom the preachers of one community disgrace as ‘disbelievers’, are ironically revered as the ‘upholders of truth’ in the other. Thus, the definition of each and everything alters with the changing conditions and the communities; hence, there exists many versions of the same given history. In such a situation, what is to be considered as truth and what to ignore as false is often a strenuous task.
Although in the subjective history, the historians may sometimes agree upon a particular result in its validity, but in the vague concepts of past including culture and tradition, a standard rational answer is impossible to achieve. A person considers the version told to them by their ancestors as the supreme and shouts it to the loudest of their voice, but in the world of equally proud population living in the mirage of superiority, no particular reason for the opinion, but just obscure screams could be heard.
It is believed that through the knowledge of history, we tend to learn from the mistakes committed in our past, but in reality the result turns out to be the opposite. Thus, the renowned German philosopher of the 18th century Idealism movement named Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel quoted, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”. It is seen that even when history is cramming with evidences where ignorant conflicts have time and again wounded humanity, we instead of learning from it, have only proliferated the issue for the same reasons.
Humans are obsessed with proving the innocence of the yesterday’s killer and the piousness of the useless rituals in the name of the preservation of culture. We tend to take sides of those who have died centuries before our birth considering them to be our own, but wouldn’t hesitate to slain a neighbor for the reason that ages ago someone from their ancestors had a rivalry with them. Everyone is looking at the past and allowing the present to be destroyed in the fire which should have been extinguished way back.
Celebrating the righteous accomplishment of history is acceptable, but falling into the mirage of false glory is not. Even those, who today live under utmost poverty may possess myriads of ancestral achievements in the form of rich culture and traditions, but the past is just an index and the present is now. No matter if you learnt the recipes of the royal cuisines from your parents, if you’re unable to feed yourself today with a basic meal, all those glories are useless.
It should be understood that past is indeed important to us, and serves as the root to the tree of our lives. But, the dependency on it should not be so much that we forget our relations of the present. We shuffle over the pages of past to take lessons from it, but it may happen that past is itself dependent on our present for neutralizing the mistakes created by it. Therefore, let’s create a beautiful present with peace and love which can be proudly handed over by us to the future generation as their heritage.
Aashish Kochhar is a student pursuing History from Jamia Millia Islamia.
edited by: Nuzhat Khan