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Lessons learnt from history

Published Nov 28, 2012 11:13am


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History is a very tricky subject. A famous quote by Aldous Huxley says, “That men do not learn from history is the most important lesson that history has to teach.” I don’t agree with this assertion as I have learnt lessons from history and have actually practiced a few of them in my life. Another historian believes that history is the selection of facts and events that suits our point of view. This is a universal lesson and is practiced by everyone in Pakistan.

Examine the speeches of Army generals, judges, bureaucrats, politicians, religious leaders, and anchor persons.  History is our favourite subject and all discussions in our drawing rooms and television programs revolve around history as far back as 1400 years. Our discussion of sectarian killings ultimately goes back to the difference in history. Even a chef on food channels quotes a hadith from history to tell us the benefits of some food.

-Iillustration by Sabir Nazar.

Another historian says that all past histories were selected biographies of rulers and powerful men. This is the golden principle practiced by our curriculum and syllabus boards that make textbooks for children by selective biographies from history. So here are few of my lessons that I learnt from history:

1. I have learned not to learn a lesson from the distorted history that was taught to us at schools. But, I practice what I learned from my syllabus books. History is for window dressing, the actual history is hidden at the back of the Al-Bakistan departmental store.

2. By the time we learn the actual history we have long passed the age to benefit from history lessons and are not even useful to our adult children who are already molded by false history taught at schools.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

3. I learnt from our selective history that starts from Mohenjo-Daro and skips 2000 years to Mohammad bin Qasim and then jumps another 500 years to Mahmood  of Ghaznavi. I told my wife about my history from childhood, then jumped to school years, skipped my shenanigans in college and told her about my struggle to make a living staying clear of my free-for-all lifestyle before marriage.

4. My resume is again my lesson from history. I only wrote the success of my career and omitted the failures and my visits to jail during my college years.  The long gaps similar to Mohammad bin Qasim and Mahmood Ghaznavi is a leaf straight out of a Pakistan Studies book.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

5. My children also tell me selected facts. The torn shirts are because they fell in a football game, only subjects with good marks are proudly announced. I find out about the subjects they flunked in only at parent-teacher meetings that are held twice a year.

6. All my relatives excel in history.  Ask them about the fight between our grandparents over a burnt meal that took place some 50 years ago. They will provide an exact account of the event, expressions and minute details. The complete command over history is manifested during marriage ceremonies or funerals, where all previous family disputes spanning over three generations come alive, with proofs and witnesses.

7. People learn so much from history in a short span of time, that if a person constructs a house, he becomes an architect. The next time if there is discussion about a constructing a house, you have an expert opinion on architecture. And if you have gone to a doctor for a sour throat or the flu, rest assured that he will prescribe the same medicine for all around him for at least one decade. He stops this only when the prescribed medicines are replaced by new ones.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

8. Listen to all TV talk shows and you will see the lesson of jumping from Mohammad bin Qasim to Mahmood Ghaznavi being practiced by all guest speakers and anchors. In one sitting they will leap from the British period to Madina city-state and then come back to the Lucknow pact and then cross over to the Abbasid period and back to mismanagement in Islamabad. They will give example of Al-Zulfiqar in 1979 and prove that PPP still has a militant wing in 2012.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

9. I have also learnt from history that you can kill all your siblings, imprison your father, kill and imprison your opponents but you will only be judged for sewing the topis for your courtiers and writing the holy book with your own handwriting. This is practiced in different forms and we can put this topi on the eyes of anyone (no pun intended on lal topi).

10. But the most important lesson is that while I am learning lessons from international history, the imperialist control of economy, foreign policies and extremism in Pakistan and other grand subjects like existentialism and free choice, it’s actually my wife who makes most of the decisions.


The author left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo. He is the jack of all trades.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (27) Closed

Zeeshan Rasool (@zeeshanrasool7) Nov 28, 2012 11:53pm
Thank you for bursting one of the many bubbles our nation revolves in.
BRR Nov 28, 2012 03:43pm
If there is no desire to learn the truth, any lie will suffice. That is what propaganda does - skip over the difficult parts, highlight what one thinks the people want to hear. Thus Pakistani history is primarily a propaganda.
Urwan khan Nov 30, 2012 04:57am
Simply great...well done...
Sarah Nov 29, 2012 12:21pm
Thumbs up.
Shahid Nov 28, 2012 01:11pm
Your columns are becoming interesting
observer Nov 29, 2012 11:16am
Yes, Pakistan needs more good people. Sure. Actually a lot of them. By the way, I wathced one Hasan Nisar on TV condemning the way a partial, distorted, and selective view of history is taught to our children in academics and preached all over. I disagree with Mr. Nisar on many points but he is right when he points out distorted history and says that our heroes were just local, temporary half-sensations. I read somewhere that 'self-deception is worst form of deception'. This is what Pakistani nation is a victim of. We need to change and broaden our horizons.
Mustafa Kamal Nov 29, 2012 11:16am
Well Written!! Kudos!!!!
haroonf Nov 28, 2012 08:47pm
Excellent article. Keep up the good work. Thanks for your honesty and truthfulness.
S.A.Sheikh, Nov 29, 2012 05:51am
What a rewarding blog.But our national history has been rendered into 'Mystery' by our all powerful rulers. They have it a flexble nose to give if desird direction.
Liberal Sindhi Nov 29, 2012 05:40am
Sabir, I don't know if you read the comments on this blog but I want to Thank you. Pakistan needs more people like Najam Sethi, Nadeem F. Paracha and you to tell our people of the reality of our country.
Ansari Nov 29, 2012 02:47am
Love your writings
Malik Irshad Nov 29, 2012 02:27am
the bitter realities lolzzzz
NASAH (USA) Nov 28, 2012 06:20pm
So far the biggest lesson Pakistan has learnt that it is hard to learn lessons when the curriculum is too crowded with too many lessons.
goldigger Nov 28, 2012 06:47pm
Pakistani's need to chill, they shouldn't take life too seriously.
Aj Nov 28, 2012 05:58pm
Reasons for respective downfalls of our historical heroes must be incorporated to impart true lessons to our children
Gulbaz Mushtaq Nov 28, 2012 03:32pm
Well said and well depiction of our society. Our pseudo intellectuals consider it national duty to distort history and term it essential for "national interests". And marvellous depiction of our society's view on Aurangzeb Alamgir.. "I have also learnt from history that you can kill all your siblings, imprison your father, kill and imprison your opponents but you will only be judged for sewing the topis for your courtiers and writing the holy book with your own handwriting." Keep up the good work.
taranveer singh Nov 28, 2012 07:53pm
wah ji wah. superb. you have guts to speak and accept truth. best wishes
Procastinator Nov 28, 2012 01:17pm
One word for you Mr. Sabir Nazir. Bravo!!!!!!!
Cynical Nov 28, 2012 05:07pm
Simply superb. Teachers of history will do well by reading it out to their students on their very first day in the class, every new session, every year. The author comes up with so many amusing anecdotes But the one I liked most is; ".....our selective history that starts from Mohenjo-Daro and skips 2000 years to Mohammad bin Qasim and then jumps another 500 years to Mahmood of Ghaznavi."
Tarun Arora Nov 28, 2012 06:10pm
Another NFP in making.Welldone,keep it up.
Saz Nov 28, 2012 03:58pm
Another good one, keep it up
MJ Nov 28, 2012 03:14pm
Well said .... bravo!!
Mano Nov 28, 2012 05:25pm
We name our children Taimur and Babar, men who came to kill us (South Asians) and raise a cry against naming even our roads and chowks on heros because of whom we were Bhagat Singh...Again a result of being offered a half-eaten(like a half eaten apple) history for breakfast (in schools), burnt history for lunch by the media and then cook our own history meal at dinner-time(when we are about to sleep and cant digest it).
Human Nov 28, 2012 05:01pm
Good one !!
Pasha Nov 28, 2012 02:30pm
Very good Mr. Sabir Nazar. Hats off.!!!!
M. Ali Janvri Nov 28, 2012 02:52pm
Great article. The author tells the truth in a humorous way. I like the part in which he said that family disputes are revived at marriages and funerals, along with proofs and witnesses.
Nasir Nov 28, 2012 01:20pm
truth and nothing but the Truth