This is not something new but it came to me as a surprise as the parts I was trying to connect started forming a whole. I was talking to a professional who works in the area of human trafficking. We concluded that a reason why migrants want to cross national boundaries is because of the stories they hear about the far away places. The migrants find the stories of El Dorado so fantastic that their real lives pale in comparison, fuelling a desire to migrate.
She told me that migrants in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Europe, America, Canada, wherever suffer their ordinary lives, live in debt and hunger but keep trying to project an image that they are very well off, they are succeeding. Behind the pretence is the fact that they do not want to lower their image in the minds of those they left behind. The stories they tell are a validation of their struggle, often illegal.
That set me thinking whether we are right in assuming that India was a great place a couple of thousand years ago. We have the Ramayan and the Mahabharat to show that we were a great civilization. We have histories, remains of civilizations, paintings, sculpture, and many other artifacts, all of them proving we were great. What if we were actually poor and we projected greatness through our works of art. What if our arts are not realistic but are actually aspirations of a hungry mind?
What if writers are essentially liars? Did Ryszard Kapuscinski not say in Imperium that the paintings of fruits and food were so brilliant because the painters were so hungry? They created arts that they could love because their life really had nothing else. What if India is not one glorious civilization which lost its riches but is actually a very slow nation on the path of progress, punctuated time and again by those who heard stories of its glory and came to check it out. Who does not believe lies?