Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Look Back, As We Look Ahead

I spent a few hours watching the documentary series called ‘The Story of India’, by PBS. Those hours were worth it, because it was good to really reiterate what we already know, but mostly gleam upon – the rich history of India through the ages, the sinusoidal path that the country’s fortunes have followed through the millennia, the meaning and origins of what pervades life in India today. We often lack the ability to maintain a perspective beyond the short term. It is easy to see India as a growing democracy, book-ended by thriving IT sectors and Bollywood; a narrow minded view of the burgeoning global middle class. But people and places don’t just come about in a day. There is a long tail of events that leads to an explanation of who we are and why we are the way we are. How often do you think of the modern secular democracy as being based on the principles that Asoka espoused or the influence that India has had on the food in the Roman empire, and in turn, modern Italy? Where do the scientific prowess of the ancients fit in and how do we factor the influence that western invasions wield on our self-confidence as a nation?

The documentary itself is as comprehensive as can be made when trying to describe a five thousand year history in six hours. It is over-romanticized at times and it is often amusing to see a westerner romanticize it thus. But I’ll take it - I’ll take his waxing over Chandragupta Maurya and Madurai, his gloating on the greatness of India’s past and relevance in the world. As India strives to seek its place at the top in this modern world, it is good to know where we came from and what really makes up our DNA. Our surge towards modernity and progress is simply building upon our rich foundations.

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