Indus Valley to Incredible India! The other day I was discussing with my granddaughter about the Indus Valley Civilisation and other prominent ones like the Egyptians, Mayans and Mesopotamians. She has a fascination for history and listened to me intently. Finally she asked me a question, ‘Thatha, the period we are now living in, will it also be called a civilization later and if so what name will be given to it?’ I was just stumped by this question. I really do not know if all the civilizations have ceased to exist with the prehistoric age and whether the present times will earn this nomenclature with posterity. During the final stages of my school, my maternal uncle presented me with a book of Hendrik van Loon titled ‘The Story of Mankind’. It was a comprehensive history beginning with the primitive man to the modern era. It was essentially written by him for his grandchildren but like, Harry Potter, it interested older men too. He did not confine himself to any particular region but covered a vast area. When he was asked how he selected the topics for his book, he replied that the yardstick that he applied for selecting the materials for his book was simply this: ‘Did the person or event in question perform an act without which the entire history of civilisation would have been different?’ I strongly urge you to get hold of a copy of this book and read it with your children. When my granddaughter stumped me with her question, I just remembered Hendrik van Loon’s parameter. Human evolution is marked by the rise, growth and decay of civilisations. Evolution does not necessarily mean progress. It simply features changing characteristics and adaptation to changing environments to ensure survival and growth. Evolution is a continuous process. Civilisation is not. We may not be able to identify our position in evolution but we can find ourselves in an identifiable location in respect of civilisation. Unlike evolution, which is a long drawn affair in human history, civilisation has an impressive glamour value by virtue of the grandeur of the accomplishments in a quick span of historical time. As we watch the wonders of our past civilisations fading away from the pages of history, a dumb sense of numbness fills us about the impermanence of it all. I recall here the prophetic words of W.B.Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold Mere anarchy is looked upon the world The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity” We are now at this phase of evolution. If we need to give a name to this period of history that we are passing through, what would it be? A couple of decades back, the ace cinematographer Krishnaswamy produced a much talked about documentary titled ‘Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi’. He seemed intent on projecting an image that the rich cultural heritage of the country has remained intact till the modern age of Indira Gandhi. There were also derisive comments that the documentary was more of an attempt to portray the degradation that the country had suffered through the ages. Our Tourism department proclaims the present state of the Nation as Incredible. Incredible India! From Indus Valley to Incredible India, we have come a long way indeed! From the erudite learning centers of Nalanda, we now have learning centers with students who take to the streets at the slightest provocation. Mass rapes that get swept under the carpet, school children dying by the dozens due to the callous attitude of the Headmistress, murders for gain, political rivalry settled through state managed hooliganism, the tentacles of corruption holding the government machinery in its vice-like grip, it gets tiresome even to repeat them! And my granddaughter wants a name for our current civilisation. Coming to think of it, Incredible doesn't seem bad at all!