Everyday History, by Aravinda Pillalamarri


“Studying history is … pretty much useless, isn’t it?” my daughter asked, as if it was fairly obvious. “I mean why read about Columbus discovering America, when it isn’t even true?”

Alarmed. All senses alert.

Mission: Rescue the field of history. Why?

Think. Think.

Meanwhile, don’t answer. A weak response merely invites rebuttal. Then what? Stay calm. Say nothing. No one need get hurt.

Ah, now I remember what to do. Listen.

Do something. Explain why we need to study history. Justice––that’s right, we can start with justice. Rosa Parks. Freedom struggle. Forest rights. Let’s just take care not to get too complicated.

The next morning as my daughter ate breakfast, I combed her hair. I had my question ready and eased it ever so casually into the flow of braiding and talking.

“Have you ever come across something that is not fair?”

“Yes,” she said, wailing. She tends to take on the mood of whatever she is talking about. “Like right now, I am finished with my oatmeal but you are only finished with one braid and I don’t have anything to eat during the other braid.”


As I took that in, she asked, “Why did you ask me that?”

“Oh,” I chirped cheerily, “I just wanted to hear what you thought.”

“That is nice,” she said, genuinely appreciating it. Though many of us have come to hear “that’s nice” as an idle dismissal, when she uses the phrase, she means it.

On that happy note, we carried on an easy banter as I finished up the other braid. No further inquiry.

Throughout the day I kept my troubles regarding the beleaguered field of history to myself.

Read Aravinda’s full story of history immersion with her daughter in our March-April issue. Subscribe.


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4 Responses to Everyday History, by Aravinda Pillalamarri

  1. Mandee on May 14, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I really appreciate this article for multiple reasons on which I could comment on, but will express just one fundamental message that I particularly value: that of the importance of instilling in our children the importance of questioning and not accepting things at face value while finding something to value in all we learn. There are different perspectives and opinions, multiple sides to each story, elaborations and downright lies with all that is out there. It’s a daily exercise in life to evaluate all information we come in contact with, whether or not we are conscientious of doing so, and there is always something we can take from every situation.

    When I was young, I attended a religious private school and my parents were rather strict. Eager to please, I assumed what seemed to be a natural role of compliance- for many years. What I was taught in school or certain one-sided ideals imposed upon me by my parents I merely accepted as truth. It took several years before revelations that there COULD be another side to the coin or or that there ARE different versions of, for example, history.

    It warms my heart to have read about the wonderful sort of guidance and nurturing the author is providing her child. Their joy in their journey of learning and pondering together is evident. The way in which her daughter -at a rather impressionable age- is able to evaluate all things around her the way she does is inspiring. She thinks freely -independently- and it takes such to bring about positive change in the world. As long as there is such a glimmer of light, I see hope for the future. Thank you for sharing this heart-warming, entertaining, and inspiring part of your journey. :)

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