The 18th March Project – Post 18

I love History.

I remember facts quite easily, and History is full of them. That’s not to say that I remember every detail of a treaty, or battle, or assassination, just enough to recount the bare bones of the sequence of events.

I started out, like most people, I assume, studying History as prescribed by the syllabus. It wasn’t enough- I like to know more. So, I started to do my own research (which at that point, was limited to flipping through the pages of the encyclopedia, sometimes at random), and read more than I needed to know for the exams. I can still remember some bits of trivia about the major wars- the World Wars, the American Civil War, the Indian fight for independence. Most of what we studied revolved around the West, and didn’t focus enough on the pasts of countries that have existed for centuries more than the European countries that later colonized them.

While we did cover some medieval Indian history in school it was mostly in relation to the spread of religion and or the kings and emperors all Indian children learn about: Ashoka, Chandragupta Maurya, Babar, Shah Jehan, Jehangir. It was only in college that I learned a little about the empires of Southern India, among them the Rashtrakutas, and the Chalukyas.

It seems to me that I didn’t learn very much about Goan history, barring a slim volume in the Xth standard about Goa’s freedom struggle.

So now I try to read books that delve into the experiences of those affected by colonial powers, whether fiction or non-fiction. I read counterfactual history, because the what-ifs can be more entertaining than the actual sordid past. For instance, if Hitler had become a painter, would the world look like it does today?

I wish the grandparents who were old enough to register what was happening during World War II were still alive- they would have added a subaltern colour from the colonial past.

 

The 18th March Project – Post 17

 

For my recent round birthday, my Danish colleagues gave me a couple of books. One of them, the one I’m already done reading (for the first time. There MUST be a second!) is The Year of Living Danishly by a British journalist, Helen Russell.

I guffawed several times while reading this book, because there were so many things that were either perfect descriptions of ‘my’ Danes, or diametrically opposite to them.

Here are some of the fun/funny things I’ve learned:

  • Danes leave their babies outside in their prams while they shop or eat
  • Legoland, Billund closes for winter. The word Lego comes from the Danish Leg godt, which means play well.
  • The Danes drink 10-11 litres of pure alcohol per person per year. Or thereabouts.
  • In the smaller villages, it’s possible that the kindergarten/nursery teacher will bring the class over to the house of the child whose birthday it is for some ‘cake and chaos’.
  • It’s okay to burn the Danish flag, but not that of another nation in Denmark
  • To mark the New Year, Danes jump off a sofa (onto the floor). They also smash plates against their neighbours’ mailboxes.
  • The Danes don’t believe in epidurals. Or paracetamol.
  • Confirmations are a big deal. Some kids – sorry, young adults have nonfirmations.
  • There is Christmas beer, Julebryg. It’s available for only 10 weeks of the year.
  • There are more divorces post the summer holiday than during the rest of the year. It is suspected/assumed that this is because people are forced to spend several weeks together – longer than at Christmas.
  • Skat is the word for tax as well as the word for honey.