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Marching with the Times
|by Ananya S Guha|
My first history lessons were drawn from a book by the name of “March of Times” when we were just in Class III. It was an exotic book dealing with ancient Rome and Greeks civilizations as well as a touch of British history. The cover of the book depicting the rise of empires and pictures of kings was something which attracted my senses immediately. History was certainly my first love. The rise and fall of Charlemagne, the stories of Romulus and Remus, the rivers the Tigris and the Euphrates were things which I would wallow my mind in.
And Mam taught us history. Mam with her portly figure and expressive eyes, Mam with her rich voice almost baritone, Mam with that strict look and Mam brandishing her cane ominously, these are all associated with the March of Times. Mam’s pedagogy was simple: to put it crudely and to use a cliche, commit and vomit. Sophisticated educators would call it learning by rote. Mam would ask us on the previous day to learn a chapter by hard and next day she would ask us, one by one to regurgitate the lessons. That was history for her, but for me that was also very exciting. I would like to repeat the lessons parrot like, and my mind roamed to an almost palpable and real past.
Nothing was more fascinating than the stories of Horatio, Alaric the Goth, the city of Rome and how it was founded, the Crusades, Helen of Troy, Homer’s Epics, Achilees etc. They charmed me into a mythic past where I would unravel so many civilizations. So, learning by rote was no problem for me. In fact, I delighted in it and laughed delirously to myself if someone got a spanking for not remembering. How could that be? Not remembering the past which added so much lustre to my life at least. Mam was visibly impressed by my acuity of memory as sharp as a razor’s edge, and she would suitably reward me with a toffee or smile benignly at me. Receiving a kind smile from her was a rarity.
The March of Times straddled not only the past but took me forward to a regenerative present and future. I would love to play roles of the king sitting on his throne and appoint some of my friends as his subjugates! Mam’s teaching of history did it all. I marched with the times. My wish fulfilment took the form of establishing kingdoms in the compound of my house with surrogate companions to act as my body guards or attendants! Perhaps the March of Times was my first loved book and treasure, and history seeped into my infantile imagination.
Three decades later Mam passed away. I did of course meet her after school occassionally when I revisited it, and she remembered me very well. But with her passing away the March of Times melted into memories.
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