Saturday, February 9, 2013

National Museum

My students and I went to the National Museum yesterday. It is one of my favourite places, and the Mohenjodara and Harappa section absolutely amazing, with its relics from India and Pakistan, providing a clue to our similarities. Now the exhibits for that civilisation extend to Rajasthan and Karnataka as well as Kutch and Punjab and Haryana. The beads and toys, the bowls and the figurines are exquisite, the weights and measures still communicating an aesthetic dimension, which five thousand years later appear as contemporary as any designer's workshop. In the coin and currency section, we saw the ancient coins of the Mauryas and the Guptas with their fine dramatic inscriptions and portraits, as well as the mohurs of the Southern kings and the Mughals and the East India Company. And in another gallery, we saw the Gandharva statues, with their Greek robes and finely curled hair.  Kanishka and the Kushans were less intimidating than the statues in the Mathura circular museum. One of the Mphil scholars asked me if Museums were a colonial construction, since he had been to Tribal Museums in the country as well.
The syncretism of our common past reasserts itself through trade and literature, and the mystics call to music and prayer across centuries. We had apple jam from Safal, and cheese slices from Amul to put on our white bread, which we ate on the lawns of India Gate, and on this, one of the students got out Oregano from her bag, in a small sealed pouch to sprinkle on our cheese...leftover perhaps from a pizza fast food counter, which had been saved for such a moment like this. Did the students of my"Historical Methods in Sociology" course know Afzal Guru had been hanged without an opportunity to say goodbye to his family? Probably not.

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