His Story

My wise, old pre-teen

Now I know for sure why God created children.  S/he wanted to put adults in their places, that’s all.

Over my years in school, my students have asked this one question time and again to me, especially near the exam time.  “Ma’am, why do we have to learn History?” The first time I was faced with that poser, it took me a good minute to come up with an appropriately teacher-sounding answer: “To stop history from repeating itself.  To ensure that we learn from the past…”  In time, I learned to embellish my answer with brief glimpses of the Holocaust and pre-independence India’s troubles. When a friend shared some pictures of his visit to Auschwitz, I promptly showed them to the girls to illustrate my point…

However, one bright spark stumped me once.  “Ok, I get your point.  But why do we need to memorize the dates, Ma’am?  Why the dates of birth and all that?”  I mumbled something about collateral damage and changed the topic.  It got me thinking, though. Why was one required to memorize all those minute statistics?

Yesterday, my younger one (yes, my wise, old pre-teen) was grappling with his history lesson.  His studies are usually punctuated with at least one break every couple of minutes, when he would ask some random question about jagirdhari and vakil and other such intricacies of the Mughal empire which I have absolutely no idea about.  (Ok, I hate to admit this, but history has never been my strength.)  I would answer his questions entirely by translating the word into Malayalam and making wild guesses about the meaning.  For instance, the word ‘mansabdhar’.  I’d translate ‘dhar’ to ‘holder’ and tell him that it’s about the holder of some title.

Am I smart or am I smart? 😀

And then he asks me the much-asked question. “Ammaaa, why do we have to learn History?”

I replied my standard reply, “So that history doesn’t repeat itself, so that we learn from the past…”

“But why do we need to know all these things about Akbar’s Central, State and Provincial governments?  All these minute details?  How’s that going to help?  It’s not as if we’re going to run this government all over again, is it?  Then why do we have to learn it?”

I thought for a long moment and then decided to come clean.

“I really don’t know.” 

There.  With that, I’m back in my rightful place.  Where I don’t know or understand so much about our education system…


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