Mud caked my hands and rested within my nail beds. Beads of perspiration rolled down my face and I wiped them away with the back of my hand, leaving a trace of dirt in its wake. The hot afternoon sun beat down on me as I surveyed my hard work. A hole the size of my head lay before me and right at the bottom, half tucked in the ground was a bone.
History is a kaleidoscope of lives long forgotten, tucked away and just waiting to be found. Buried deep within the contours of modern life, they hold something new all the while being something old. An upturned rock to the coffin in the ground means something. Every detail holds a story more breathtaking than the last. Whole cities like Pompeii, while completely destroyed by the brutality of a volcanic eruption, left behind a bottomless pit of stories waiting to be told.
My fascination with history and the buried life started with when we first studied about the Evolution of Man in school. The way the primitive man lived his life, from the pots and tools he used every day to the hunting techniques. From the first flame every made and the simple clothes made of animal hide. I drank in every picture, every word that existed in the encyclopedia at home. My fascination grew with time. Books and the internet helped me travel from the Indus Valley to the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Mayans in South America. Reading about their lives brought about a hunger in me, a flame that could not be extinguished.
I remember afternoons, just lying in bed with my grandmother and quietly listening to stories about her past, life before Independence and the advent of Pakistan as a country. I remember her telling me about being present at the funeral of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and my mind making up scenarios through her words. I tucked away every detail safely and imagined myself in her shoes from time to time.
History set free my imagination. It brought to life characters and worlds that either lay dormant for years or never existed in the first place. Books and authors brought about the existence of fictitious places that seemed real. Captain Nemo found existence of the city under the sea, and Atlantis became more than just a legend to me. Shakespeare made Julius Caesar more than the man he was made out to be.
In my recent trip to Turkey I was more than ecstatic about visiting the ruins of Troy. To my own family the place seemed barren with only rocks lying around depicting where the buildings and houses stood. But as I stood among the ruins, the whole story played out before me. I saw the buildings in all their glory; the street urchins beckoning me to buy their goods, the Greeks walking alongside me and I saw myself adorned in their clothes. I saw the Trojan horse enter the city, everyone asleep in their drunken stupor and later watched the city burn to a crisp.
In history I found stories. Authors retell them according to their own depictions. In history I found myths and legends. They bring to life figures never known to exist to man before. In history I found life. Very much like the one we live now, only simpler.