Monday, August 22, 2011

History and History

I've always liked reading history. I've always hated preparing for history tests.

History tests used to be a nightmare. I hated the way we used to be taught history: mug up the names (which almost invariably included a suffix, whether II or XVI, or were as imposing as Mohammad bin Ikhtiyar-ud-Din Bakhtiyar Khilji - yes, I know I got that one wrong again); obscure years; exactly why Jahangir and Shah Jahan were capable rulers, despite being sandwiched between two of the greatest emperors the country has ever produced; and how pornography had triggered off the Battle of Buxar. Okay, I made up the last one.

It was not the subjects: it was the way we were taught to memorise all that mindlessly.

Of late I've found out something that's even worse: teaching history. It has taken me about two decades and an examination candidate of a girl to find out exactly why my history teachers were always in a mood more sore than the others.

Trust me, it takes immense patience to teach a seven-year-old the implications of Swadeshi, Boycott, Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience and Quit India Movement. It takes an incredible amount of patience to keep your cool when she invariably blurts out that Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was born on 15th August 1947, and hence the date that is celebrated as Teachers' Day all over India.

It made me nostalgic as well, I admit: incredibly nostalgic: I remember botching up my own history exams, one after the other, and managing to scrape through with something merely honourable in the Board Exams. But then, everyone knows I'm a hypocrite, so I kept losing my temper from the morning.

I'd rather be honest. I am not pretentious. And unlike some people, I won't always agree that fatherhood is a bliss: it comes mostly with joyous memories, but there are some horrible downs. And yesterday was one of those days when I was on the brink of losing it.

**

The television was on mute. Through the corner of the eye, while busy getting infuriated at messed-up historical dates, Dhoni didn't look too confident, and soon had soon edged one from Anderson. Out came Mishra. Still no sign of Gambhir, though the screen showed him sitting in the dressing-room in complete cricket attire, complete with a helmet.

But Mishra hung around. Hit some fours. And Dravid went on. And on. And on. And got his hundred. His 35th. One that took him past (take your time to read the names again) Gavaskar and Lara. Somewhere they showed that Dravid became the only batsman to have faced five thousand overs in test cricket. Not deliveries. Overs. And he went on.

5.30. Mishra had lofted the last ball before lunch for an outrageous six. Watched the replay. Telly switched off (accompanied by the irritating switch-off tune that Samsung thinks is cute).

***

We had shifted to science: the dental structure of herbivores, the nests of weaverbirds and the benefits of loamy soil. This was more of a comfort zone for both of us. At least it doesn't involve dates. Or names.

***

Mishra falls. Gambhir comes out, all groggy. Puts a dead bat at everything. He seems either very determined or very robotic. Given that he has had concussions the previous day, I make a rather intelligent guess.

Gambhir falls. RP Singh makes merry. Plays some cool strokes. Gets out trying to leave a ball. Sreesanth continues his inherent cuteness by driving one straight to a fielder with Dravid around.

***

Birds have a streamlined body that helps them fly. Down feathers keep a bird's body warm, so newborn birds have a lot of them. Crows perch. Herons wade.

Plants breathe through stomata. They use chlorophyll to make food on their own, something that animals cannot do. The process is called photosynthesis.

Things are improving. History is bad. Science isn't. Parenting isn't that hard, either.

***

We follow-on. Out comes Dravid again. Bats till tea.

***

A friend, The Great Cricket Data Person, texts me about Hutton: about how he had carried his bat, his team had followed on, and had come out to open the batting again. I knew I had to obtain the list. I just had to.

It was tea. She was revising history. I had to pounce upon Cricinfo.

PLAYER            TEAM AGE SCORE TEAM VS  SEASON   2ND INNS
BERNARD TANCRED   SA    23   26*   47 AUS 1888-89    3
BILLY ZULCH       SA    33   43*  103 ENG 1909-10   14
LEN HUTTON        ENG   34  202*  344 WI  1950       2
FRANK WORRELL     WI    32  191*  372 ENG 1957      16
SIDATH WETTIMUNY  SL    26   63*  144 NZ  1982-83    7
DESMOND HAYNES    WI    35   75*  176 ENG 1991      43
RAHUL DRAVID      IND   38  146*  300 ENG 2011      13


Mind you, no one did this at his age. Or while being 0-3 down, mentally dead and buried, written off, mocked at, well, you know what I mean. Or while batting for India. Or with me in a sour mood.

***

The day changed. 5th September comes back as Teachers' Day, and 15th August 1947 is reinstated to its original status. And I loved being a father once again. What the hell was I thinking?

And History, Cricket and Rahul Dravid, I love you. I love you all. And I love you all the most when you combine, like you had done yesterday.

***

PS: Dravid didn't really contribute a second time. And when he left The Oval finally, it was due to a third umpire's glitch. He had managed to lift my mood somehow. And when Tendulkar and Mishra left at stumps, somehow I managed to lift it further by watching Manhattan till goodness-knows-when.This, I guess, added even more to a really good mood - even beyond Fardeen Khan's capacity to ruin it.

9 comments:

  1. I too have very similar memories of history lessons, and exams...I've had to re-learn how to like history...without those dates!

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  2. I wonder whether milk powder did its bit to lift up your mood.

    Anyway, love the post and loved you all over again.

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  3. > I've always hated preparing for history tests.

    The BCCI agrees with you - and goes beyond. Not only do they hate preparing for history Tests, they seem to hate preparing for ANY Tests whatsoever.

    Shame on us for batting, bowling, fielding - and planning - as we did, we really deserved that whitewash. Now let us see if the changes we brought about in our ODI cricket after WC2007, which led to you-know-what in 2011 :), are similarly brought about in our Test cricket.

    On a more individual - and personal - note, what a Man. What a Wall. One of the most inspiring innings I've ever seen.

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  4. >>how pornography had triggered off the Battle of Buxar. Okay, I made up the last one.

    You're not far from the truth, mon ami. Only, it was then known as the Battle of the Boxers, and it involved a fundamental exhibition, i.e. exhibition of the fundament, after the said item of clothing was laid in tatters during the battle. And oh, the outcome wasn't too shabby either.

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  5. history is difficult...and were you trying to become- your child's father or the father of the nation?

    Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan blesses you from heaven(if that's where he went to).

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  6. Ohh so true... Learning history was a meticulous task.. and failure to do it was very obvious given the boredom it gives.

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  7. he he.Studying history again :)
    that's punishment enuf.
    I'm already grinning, envisioning you poring over history books,pensive and peevish.

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  8. Madhyamik e History paper submission er por ekta odvut bhabe nechechhilaam (exam hall-e :D)and sobai k bolechhilaam "amake aar konodin history porte hobe na" :)

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  9. I have a similar memory of history exams. I dreaded them with all my heart – not just history but all subjects that formed part of ‘Social studies’. History, geography, and civics led to a goodish reduction in percentage during my tenth boards. I was glad those were the last Social Studies – related exams I ever had to give.

    ReplyDelete

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