My reading list during the Sikkim trip consisted of “The Immortals of Meluha” and “Chasing the Monk’s shadow”, fiction and non fiction respectively. Sometime during the trip, I completed the former, the latter was completed long after the trip.
The first book is a work of fiction that treats Shiva, the Hindu god, as a real person and tries to look at mythology through a historical perspective. The second is a journal of a person who retraces (almost) the epic journey of Xuanzang (the latest spelling of the person we learned about as Hiuen Tsang in school). One myth, one history. One is a possibility, the other ‘factual’.
The first, about a Tibetan tribal chieftain who is looked upon by a civilisation as the messiah promised in their legends. The second, a monk with an insatiable thirst for India. In this age of rapid advances in communication, it was quite an experience to be transported to a time when people got news years or even decades after it happened. A monk who starts a journey based on a certain information, only to realise that while he was traveling towards his destination, things had changed – kings deposed, lifestyles changed, faith forgotten….
The passage of time gives us a bird’s eye view of what happened then, allowing us to dwell on the possibilities of how/if Gods were created, to interpret snippets of information gleaned from remnants of a life, what it must’ve been like. From our vantage point, we see patterns, lifelines almost crossing each other, tantalisingly close, with the possibility of drastically changing the flow of events that transpired later. All this, after patiently sifting through the layers that have been added over the years.
I wonder if, thanks to the way we consume and share information, later archaeologists will have a reverse problem, of having to go through mounds of information- multiple perspectives to separate facts from opinions. Or maybe, it has always been like that, and the sands of time have a way of burying it randomly. It is quite humbling to think of the possibility of Iceland’s volcano being a footnote in history, because it so happened that what survived was a casual, unaffected post which treated it as a minor news, as opposed to the anguished post of someone whose plans went awry, all thanks to it.
Another reminder that history and beyond is just a perspective we get from what survived.
until next time, time consumes too