Ten years down the line, looking back to these days, what will we remember? Countless memes on the internet foreshadow that 2020 would be a landmark year in future history textbooks and that we are living through historical events. Maybe, we are. But who is to say what actually makes history?
I am not denying that the countless memorable events in the past year are historical. Instead, I am attempting to focus on how this history is being narrativized. Who are the people appearing in it? What are those names and dates that will come in History Tests to write short notes on?
Most of us will have different answers. What makes those answers different is our personal attribution to those specific events, dates, people, and our own individual experiences. Many of us are staunch followers of the social distancing protocol, some are vacationing, some face severe symptoms of the CoronaVirus, some don’t even feel that they have it, while millions are losing their lives. Some are still pondering new ways to work or study from home; many lost their jobs, while a majority were walking back to their hometowns just to not starve.
Our experiences of the previous year are layered with social, economic, psychological, cultural, and religious angles. And it’s highly unlikely that all our very different, individual, and emotional experiences would be remembered. Maybe a few memoirs make it through, a few exceptional pieces of writings, fictional or otherwise create a stir to emphasize the individuality of history. But, what always makes the cut is the collective history.
The epiphany of the fact that we all would end up being just numbers of statistical data used to research the long-lasting biological or economic effects of the pandemic makes one realize that even the history we study is marred with overshadowing of the collective over personal. It makes me wonder who were the countless and nameless ‘Yous’ and ‘Mes’ during the era of Independence, or how the lives of people were affected by the welcoming of the Indian Constitution in 1951. Everything – history and the process of its narrativization – is political. Our past, its idealization, the nostalgia of a greater or a more democratic, more traditional, more ‘Indian’ India, might as well be a shadow of an era full of countless people with their sufferings forgotten.
On 26th January, the Indian population watches the parade, celebrates, and takes pride in the legacy of our Democracy and its Constitution. Maybe, this year after living through these countless ‘Historical Events’ we can understand that taking history on its prima facie is honestly a lie. History is refined. It is filtered and cleaned, which when looked upon with a magnifying glass reveals all its gaps and flaws. And let’s face it, only a handful of us try to make attempts to look at this history more closely and fill these gaps. The rest just sip a cup of chai, read obnoxious WhatsApp historical facts aloud like it is the Holy Bible, and take pride in chest-thumping nationalistic pledges, not realizing that, just like we are erasing a part of that past, we are simultaneously being erased in the future’s past.
Feature Image Credits: Fine Art America