Apparently, our glorious land was ruled at various times by the Mauryas for 550 years, the Chalukyas for 600 years, the Satavahanas for 500 years, the Cholas for 1,000 years, the Pandyas for 600 years and the Kapoors for 100 years (okay, I made up the last one). But all we hear about, Facebook and WhatsApp tell me of late, is the wretched Mughals who ruled for a measly 300 years. And that this injustice should be corrected at once on a war footing as we scream Jai Hind.
As a baby step, I don’t know, perhaps we could ban biryani, a diabolical Mughal invention that has enslaved us for centuries. And make Chole Bhature, an all-time favourite of Raja Raja Chola, the most ordered dish on Swiggy for the next one year and show those arrogant, if dead, Mughals a thing or two. And be declared the most patriotic nation in the universe by Nasa. And have that underwritten by Unesco.
Jokes apart, why is it important that we read up on these kings? With immediate effect? As opposed to those other terrible kings about whom far too much has been written?
Well, could it be because, unlike those dastardly Mughal invaders, these were all good, benevolent, tolerant kings, who didn’t bump off their own family members to ascend the throne, had no blood on their hands, whose armies didn’t rape, pillage or plunder, didn’t hanker after power, were uniformly kind to their subjects, didn’t ever impose taxes, planted shady trees, built wide roads and never ate biryani? And that Kangana Ranaut and Arnab Goswami have in their possession UHD videos from centuries ago as incontrovertible proof of their munificence?
Indulge me as I relate a tiny tale with a happy ending.
A man was travelling with his family along a long and winding road. It had been quite a journey. There was no denying the path had been bumpy and unpredictable, and his car rattled and wheezed a bit from the strain. But there was also no denying he had made progress. Mainly because he had kept his eyes open. And on the road ahead.
Suddenly a man waving a bright red flag jumped in his path and stopped the car.
“You know what a horrible, dangerous, pot-hole filled road you have been driving on so far?” he said. “Don’t you see the injustice of it? Shouldn’t you be taking all those responsible for building such an evil, unnavigable road to task, make them pay? And keep looking out for how dangerous and harmful the road behind you is?”
“Yes, you are absolutely right, sir,” the driver said gratefully. “From now on, I won’t take my eyes off the rear-view mirror when I drive. I’ll keep a keen eye on how bad the road behind me is. Thanks for the invaluable tip.”
The driver restarted his car, and proceeded, his eyes firmly on the rear-view mirror. And promptly drove off a cliff at the next bend, family and all. And they all lived happily ever after.
Not a believable story? Why then are so many of us obsessed with the road that we have already negotiated? Good, bad and ugly, though it might have been. Like any long road. At the expense of looking at the road ahead?
Understanding history and its older sibling, mythology, is okay. Good even, up to a point. But isn’t it obvious that we have gone way past that? Obsessively looking at the past — real and mythical — is merely not wanting to look at the present; an inability to deal with reality. And an unwillingness to take responsibility.
How about we put history aside for a bit, and mythology, too, and brush up on reason, scientific thinking and logic instead. Even get ourselves a (slim) book on compassion, perhaps. Maybe it’s time to forget yesterday for a minute and figure out what we need to do today so that we actually have a tomorrow. Not be diverted by people who don’t want us to see the here and now.
See what we've allowed to happen because we’ve been told to stare at the rear-view mirror.
And, yes, let’s thank god for biryani....