‘It is a truth universally acknowledged (in India) that an ‘Arts student’, in possession of a regular Indian family, relatives and neighbourhood must be in want of a more aware vicinity’ –

A vicinity which doesn’t fire its prejudices from their limited cannon!

Such could have been one of the conjectures, had Jane Austen compressed a book on the trials and tribulations of a Humanities student in India, for whom the scenario sadly, has more to do with ‘Prejudices’ and less with ‘Pride’.

One such Humanities course which bears the brunt of such innumerable prejudices is ‘History Honours’. Half the college life of a History student is spent in dispelling some common myths and assumptions, first about their course and subsequently themselves. We talked to numerous history students, professors and enthusiasts, and present to you the Top 3 things History students are tried of hearing:

Beta, aage kya karoge??

‘I am pursuing History Honours from XYZ college.’, the usual reaction (after minutes of gawking and awkward exchange of smiles), to follow would be… “So what next? UPSC? Sarkari naukri? While government jobs are one of the popular routes after graduating in History, but to view the students, only as a bunch of aspiring government servants, is a very narrow outlook to the plethora of fields that History Honours opens up.

Ankur Anand, a final year history student of Ram Lal Anand college expresses his dismay over such a flawed perception,“What’s surprising is, even before I finish saying my course, people assume that I am gearing for UPSC, none of them have ever asked me whether I would like to be an archaeologist or a historian.” A history major student can be an archaeologist, museumologist, heritage and conservancy professional, tourism professional. What’s more, a history graduate can also go on to study law, politics, journalism, politics, education etc.

History goes way beyond UPSC. (Image Source: ncas.rutger.edu)

Ratt te Ratt te, Bore nahi ho jaate?

Another common misconception which the course entails, is of being a monotonous, mug-up business. Students are expected to memorize paragraphs and pages, dates and names, and vomit it as it is on their papers. Contrary to this, the students have to read the works of several authors, for a more objective understanding of the any historical event. Each author comes with his own ideological baggage and understanding of the subject. Students are expected to weigh these radically different view points and coalesce them into a coherent argument.

“History gives you an over-arching trajectory of development, from the very inception of the human race, to the perils of colonialism on man-kind. How can that be boring? Its just the matter of interest” adds Rahul Pandey a  history student of Delhi University, in defense of his course.

history-minor

History is not about mugging up facts and figures. (Image Source: sju.edu)

Koi practical value toh hai nahi …

This assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. Understanding the cultural, socio-economic and political differences of an era, and the historical development that has followed the course of events, gives History students a stronger foothold over the politics of any subject matter. This ‘historical sense’ gives them an edge to bridge the dis-junction between past and the present, and approach towards subsequent resolutions. ‘History’ also remains detrimental in some of the biggest diplomatic decisions around the world.

History is critical in understanding the present and the future as well. (Image Source: lookt.ru)

Its time for us to clear the mist around our lens about the course, for History is like a bank on which one can forever rely, for assessing the current governance, power-relations, and society as a whole. Similarly a History student is much more than a jhola-clad gawky youth, debating against the fascist regime of Hitler, he is perhaps the smart friend who has just the right knowledge to assess Modi’s governance. The next time you come across a history student or attend a fest organised by the History Department of your college, make it a point to talk to them about their course, their notions about the world and how they were formed. If nothing, you’ll probably realise the rich and interesting subject history is, and how it is a direct pivot to the present and the future as well. If you happen to be a history student yourself, direct the next naysayer to this article! The importance of history as a subject can probably be summed best by this saying:

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything, you are a leaf  who doesn’t know it is part of a tree”- Michael Crichton

(Image source)

Posted by Sushmita Sengupta

M.A. English Literature student. Delhi University. Seizing the day since August '94.

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