At Bradford Festival this weekend, I was talking to local people about our project. An elderly Gujarati man asked me: “Why bring all these things back up now? Its long time now, better forget about it”. In his book Why History Matters John Tosh argues history can provide counter images, by which he means alternative readings of the past that can shed light on the present and provide alternative futures. He also says history is about engaging with the past and acknowledging it in an age of presentism. Presentism means the way we live from moment to moment without understanding how those that came before shape each moment. Therefore engaging with the past must be from a 360degree perspective, in that we should look at culture, politics, economics as well as events and the people who lived them in order to create historical narratives.
So what did the elderly gentleman mean by forget about it?
One of his friends said: “We were so poor” and another “They didn’t send the white children, on the buses, only the Asians, why? ”
I think the elderly man meant that its painful to think about those days of poverty, racism and the strangeness of a new country and we have to move on.
Pictured above, two famous sons of India : Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi both had Gujarati as their mother tongue. Lest we forget…