History has never been more relevant than now, with so many heated debates on nationalism, patriotism and our collective past.

Indian children grow up without a sense of history Some book recommendations PTI
Features Independence Day Saturday, August 13, 2016 - 18:50

Very few children love studying History. Usually, the voluminous textbook with its many dates and events narrated with the tepidity of an aircraft beverage is sufficient to put most readers off. However, History has never been more relevant than now, when there are so many heated debates on nationalism, patriotism, and who we call our ancestors.

For the large part, we assume that History is a dead subject because the people whose stories we’re reading are dead. That it doesn’t matter who ruled Delhi when, which queen ascended what throne, and who decided what legal and social mores the country should follow. But we forget that we’re all here, where we are, because of the events that happened so long ago and how the people who lived back then responded to those.

Our understanding of the past is increasingly becoming simplistic and polarized. Appropriation of history, distorting it to suit their own purpose, by those in power is a common enough strategy by governments all over the world – Right wing and Left. The versions that become popular are not necessarily the truth. Didn’t we grow up studying that Columbus ‘discovered’ America? What of the people who lived there – clearly, they already knew of its existence!

What we read is what someone has decided we must read. There’s plenty of Gandhi in the freedom movement but very little Ambedkar. There’s plenty about India’s united struggle but not quite enough about the many ideological clashes among its leaders. There’s plenty about the architectural wonders of an era but barely anything about how women or people from underprivileged communities lived in those times.

It’s no wonder then that many of us grow up with very little sense of our past and find it easy to be swayed by historical distortions that are put forth by people with vested interests. It's easy to claim that you're a patriot, far harder to dig deep, realize the weight of the word and then make an allegiance. 

There are quite a few books on Indian history that Indian children’s publishers have brought out for young people. This Independence Day, perhaps some reading, conversation and introspection is in order for us in our homes? Here are some book suggestions to start off down that road:

1.       A Children’s History of India by Subhadra Sen Gupta (Red Turtle)

2.       The Incredible History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal (Puffin)

3.       Queen of Ice by Devika Rangachari (Duckbill)

4.       My Gandhi Story by Ankit Chadha, Nina Sabnani (Tulika Publishers)

5.       Girls of India: A Harappan Adventure by Sunila Gupte (Puffin)

6.       History-Mystery series by Natasha Sharma (Duckbill)

7.       A Chola Adventure by Anu Kumar (Puffin)

8.       Amazing India: A State by State Guide by Anita and Amit Vachharajani (Scholastic)

9.      How did the Harappans say Hello and 16 other Mysteries of History by Anu Kumar (Red Turtle)

10.      We, the Children of India by Leila Seth (Puffin)

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