It can’t get more copybook than this. Last month, I was looking for a historian. Where did I find him? In a century old institution, filled with old manuscripts, housed in a cavernous stone building, in the oldest part of the city. And it turns out that this man is not just a historian; he is an archaeologist too. He is credited with rediscovering 3 lost forts during excavations he has led over the years.
But no, he doesn’t wear an Indiana Jones hat ( I asked him specifically, to be sure). And he doesn’t sport grey hair… he must be in his 30’s ( Guesswork: I haven’t asked him this).
So I met him, told him that I wanted his help in making history come alive for an audience. He was mostly silent, leaving me a tad uncomfortable (was I getting through to him?), forcing me to fill the silence in the aforesaid cavernous building with more words, till I had no more to say. Then, there appeared a twinkle in his eye. What that twinkle said to me is: We were in sync. He had the same mission, through his research and his teaching.
He invited me to visit him in college. I went. More copybook stuff … old stone building, laboratory with test tubes and soil samples, thick scholarly tomes, a bound volume of his own Ph. D. thesis (appropriately long title, something like “A comparative study of the defensive architecture of forts in…”). He walked me through a museum of archaeology (more about that in a later post), acting as a narrator.
History may unravel slowly, over centuries. But this historian is in a rush. Next day, he was to leave for the Raigad fort, where his team is GPS mapping the entire fort. He explained that forts crumble ultimately, done in by the weather or people looking to take home stones. But he hopes that digitised and catalogued information can survive indefinitely.
I’m going to be seeing more of him… planning together, seeing him roll up his sleeves during a dig or as he reveals secrets of fort construction to an audience. And I’m hoping the twinkle in his eye will stay, and say “History can be exciting”.