dr vagishwari – a raconteur of history

Thanks to ‘Indian Institute of Montessori Studies’ (IIMS), some of us from NammaShaale got an opportunity to listen to Dr Vagishwari of the Department of History at Christ University, Bangalore – on 23rd Jan, 2010.

I have been a student of history for quite a few decades now and I have always been fascinated by the various interpretations and streams of history – and the interplay of contexts. However, I have almost always been disappointed by the lack of depth and the incorrigble (and sometimes, plain dishonest) ability to generalize based on a sample size of one or less of many of the historians – some of them quite famous, some of them quite dead. Good riddance too.

So, when I got the invitation from the school for this talk on history to a primarily Montessoriese adult audience, my immediate reaction was tremendous reluctance – the talk was on a saturday, the venue deep within the city, the speaker unknown to me, expected time spend of 6 hours etc etc… However, I did go and ma’am Vagishwari  did not disappoint me.

It was good that she did not canonically toe the line of the ‘JNU school of marxist’ ahistorians  (actually these specimens are the current establishmentwallahs) or the ‘extreme nationalistic’ school or for that matter, ‘dravidian/aryan dividers and rulers’ nonsense. Her talk was about getting the facts first and then getting the relevant contexts so that a reasonable edifice of history can emerge. She was not interested in generalizing and making sweeping statements – and she also appeared to be uptodate with the current level of research in the contentious topics of history. She could also effortlessly move from Bittiga to Charlemagne to Veerappandiya Kattabomman to EVR to gender studies to… Good. Many idols fell by the wayside, including the idol of sloganshouting-placard wielding years of my youth – D D Kosambi. However, as she hinted at, everyone’s contribution has been useful for the furtherence of historical cognition in one way or the other, so, RIP dear Kosambi.

There were of course a few points of divergence of opinions and jumping of contexts, but they were all subdued by good natured humour and her erudition.

It is not often times that one gets to listen to professionals with depth, a fine sense of humour and good oratorial capabilities (no PowerPointless slides yay!)…  Her passion for history shone thru’ in the whole talk.

May her tribe increase.  Thanks NammaShaale, for the nice saturday surprise, instead of um, some staff meeting – and also IIMS, of course!

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