A Long Time Ago……

Update for Week Ended 13 January 2012

My introduction to history happened a long time ago (just like how they described history lessons in my school books…. All the chapters started with “it happened a long time ago”) and I really liked what I was introduced to. Partly because it was something new compared to the reading, writing, (a)‘rithmetic rigmarole till then; and partly because our Class III teacher had quite an interesting way of teaching, by involving the class into playacting the chapters from the book. So the book had Mzee Safari who was like the sutradhar (story teller) who introduced each chapter and took us through history, almost like he had lived it (Mzee is a Swahili word for wise old man while Safari refers to the journey that he undertook, his journey through time). And the teacher for some strange reason chose me to play the role of Mzee Safari – so I had the privilege of living history through his words in the book. And my first lessons included how early civilization used barter trade instead of currencies. So the desert people would bring camel loads of salt to be exchanged for animal skin and grain from the cultivators and animal herders; while the hunters would exchange ivory and ostrich feathers for cowrie shells from the sea-faring fishermen. It was so interesting as we also play acted this class, bring along faux skins and cowrie shells, beads and feathers to exchange in a recreated old world market place. And these early forms of money or currency have been modified and reintroduced into many economies today. So a cowrie or Kodi which was precious still finds pride of place in our world as the Koti or the more familiar Crore. While the prized feather of the Central American bird is the currency of Guatemala – the quetzal. And before the metric systems came to place, many societies used different bases for their currencies – so twenty shillings made a pound; or three pies made one paisa while four paisa made one anna. And sixteen anna made a rupaiya. And these sixteen anna were considered a whole leading to phrases like “the sixteen anna truth” meaning the truth, the whole truth and the only truth (solah anna sach – in Hindi or Urdu). Such was the power of these sixteen coins.

The power of the Sixteen was back on D Street. The sixteen D Boyz were ready to take their pet, the SENSEX into the sixteens territory. Yes, they had to work hard on Monday to prepare for the grand entry the next day, but the hard work paid off. So on Monday the SENSEX remained firmly in the Sixteen Thousands and although there was reverse pressure to push it back on Thursday below the True Mark of the Sixteen, much resistance helped the SENSEX buck it and stay on course to grow 306 points over last weekend – to close at 16154. The D Boyz were last seen collecting their whole sixteen annas of profits for the week, before heading for some kite flying pleasure on the weekend.

Mzee Safari unfortunately did not last very long – he was with us in letter and spirit and playacting for 2 years. And then in Class V, we were taken to meet mummies in pyramidic tombs before going out of the dark continent and over the oceans to the new worlds.

This weekend, many cultures will celebrate the winter solar festival of plenty – so Punjabis will huddle around the bonfire to eat popcorn and rewdi (candied sesame seeds), singing songs in bonhomie; while the Tamils will boil and cook rice in milk with a dollop of jaggery on top, and perhaps dance a step or two around the decorated stove cooking the pongal. The Gujaratis will spend all day on their terraces flying kites and eating platefuls of that winter one pot meal – the undhiyo; while the Bengali will usher in the dawn on the banks of the confluence of the mighty Ganga with the Bay of Bengal at Gangasagar Island. And before I sign off for this week, may I use the standard Marathi greeting for this occasion – Til Gul Khaa aani God God Bola – Eat the candied sesame rolls and speak as sweetly.

Have a nice weekend…. Cheers…


One thought on “A Long Time Ago……

  1. Never liked History till I started visitng Museums in Europe and US.
    I guess we got the wrong kind of teachers.
    anish poojara

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