What do people mean when they say, I am not interested in the past? Do they mean that they are focused relentlessly on the future, the pursuit of which is determining their present? That the Past is some island they have forsaken, therefore? That the Past is baggage, best offloaded?
And yet, as Anthony Hopkins, in his brilliant rendition of John Quincy Adams, in the film Amistad, debating the nature of man in the US Supreme Court, says, so eloquently, “Who we are is who we were.”
In a country such as India, with its continuous history of several millennia, the past - and apologies to Harold Pinter here - is not a foreign country, it is in the very air we breathe (which vibrates daily to the Hindu priest’ chants, with a vintage of 2000+ years), in the soil, which is an Aryan-Mongol-Afghan-Turkish-Persian palimpsest, in the treatment of its women, at once Savitri and Savita Bhabhi. So many of us in India, blindsided in this forward frenzy, seem to forget that if we are to change our Future in any meaningful way, we need to engage with our Past in the Present.
The Past, deviyo aur sajjano, needs us to be interested.