It was time for a spot of time-travel. We just hadn’t realized it at the time, but what started as a movie took us into marshes of history, and from there on to speculative adventures, voyages into books and interesting chats on walks under the moonlight dancing through the clouds alongside the setting sun’d rays. If that doesn’t constitute ingredients for a magical time, I don’t know what does.
We had been out to watch Ponniyin Selvan – 2. Set in a time period in South India a whole millennia ago, the movie had already captured the imagination and attention of Tamil fans with its first installment. Political intrigue, love, betrayal, loss, treachery, assassinations, alongside the brilliant imagery of the sets, the costume design and so much more. I enjoyed the foray into 1000 A.D – I had not read the books that were equated to the (Harry Potter books in our generation) for (Tamil readers a generation ago), and the movie was still transformative in its set designs and plot. Within minutes, we forgot the popcorn and the theatre, and were instead watching mesmerized as the young princes and princess sorted through the messes their lives had become.
Days later, we were discussing all of this, when our discussions turned to the lack of historical writing and documentation in India through the ages. Egypt had the great Alexandria library, and though India was known for its universities and advances in many fields, historical documentation is scant. It is apparent to this day. As quickly as India has grown in the past few decades since Independence, and seeing that the constitution adopted many tenets of freedom, secularism and democracy, it still did not plan to make room for public libraries accessible to one and all. Most advanced nations have free public libraries. (Including the ones that out influenced the early days of India: United Kingdom & United States).
Education has always been hugely valued by the Indian subcontinent seeing that Saraswathi as a goddess of learning and Buddhism as a means to ‘know thyself’ as practically tenets of the culture. To date, there are bookstores and the publishing industry is a thriving one in India. So, the lack of libraries is truly baffling.
I digress, but the point is that historical fiction was and continues to be an interesting genre for this ability to time-travel, to try and unravel the mysteries of a time gone by. We fell to talking about the city of Poompuhar in the Cauvery Delta close to where the Ponniyin Selvan movie takes place, and the husband told us about the fact the funds to find out what happened to the city that was submerged many centuries ago. The South Indian Archaeology department itself was only started in 2005. We do not know when the city was submerged.
Here lies the thrill of the discovery though. With modern techniques, notes from that age, relics and artifacts, so many things could be pieced together.
The son and I read the book, Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science – Written by Susan Higher and Illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier together.
In mysteries spread across the world, the book tries to unearth (pun unintended) what happened. Take the case of the missing city of Ubar in the Arabian peninsula. Situated in the Rub’ al-Khali desert, it existed possibly 5000 years ago: a supposedly thriving city on the trade route between Greece, Rome & China, it was last seen in 300 CE.
The Mystery of Ubar was solved in a rather anticlimactic fashion though. It may have been that Ubar was an important port with a fort for protection that was destroyed by an earthquake and sank into the sands, but it may have grown into a city in legend, and retellings of a dramatic nature. However, as historians, archaeologists, documentary movie producers, and space cadets looked through the lenses of time to find out what happened, the journey towards discovery could have been a tale in itself.
How many mysteries like The Atlantis of the Sands are out there?
There will be a time in the future when stories of our time period will be fascinating and what they find about us will be intriguing, though we will never know. That is the thrill of it too. Will our granite slabs tell the story of our technical prowess as well as our internet revolutions?