Independence Day

Why do Indian and Pakistani textbooks tell wildly different histories?

The History Project juxtaposes the Indian and Pakistani versions of history in schoolbooks to underline the obvious biases.

In one of her most engaging Ted Talks, writer Chimamanda Adichie once warned again the danger of a single story – you show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become in popular perception. India and Pakistan have seen this happen for 69 years. To this day, the pedagogical history textbooks in the sibling nations give children splintered chronicles – uni-dimensional accounts of historical events that are fraught with biases against the so-called other.

In 2005, Qasim Aslam and Ayyaz Ahmad, two young Pakistanis, saw this up close. They were invited to be part of a Seeds of Peace conflict resolution camp in Maine, USA – a platform that brought together children from India and Pakistan to hold dialogues. In one of the workshops, the children compared the historical timelines of their two countries.

During the discussion, conflicting viewpoints emerged and ricocheted off each other – the children from both sides of the border nurtured a different narrative of a shared history. “What we realised while talking to our Indian friends was that it was very difficult to have a peaceful conversation because both sides didn’t know what the other side had been taught,” recounted Ahmad. There were evident discrepancies in the two versions of history.

When Aslam and Ahmad returned home to Pakistan, that incongruity disconcerted them. In their mind, it lingered and remained. Six years later, in a casual conversation, the two decided to start working on a book that would juxtapose the Indian version of history with the Pakistani one, highlighting where the respective historical trajectories deviated and merged. That was the birth of The History Project.

Courtesy: The History Project
Courtesy: The History Project

What lay in front of Ahmad and Aslam was a mammoth task. They began by calling out for academics and scholars who would volunteer to help cull text from both Indian and Pakistani school books and assemble them like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

“We were very cognisant of the fact that we could not have every textbook,” said Ahmad, an MBA from Cambridge. “So we are not claiming to present [the] narrative of textbooks in their entirety – that was never the purpose. The purpose is to show that there are overarching narratives and that these textbooks are just samples from those narratives that give the other side a good sense of what’s being taught in India or Pakistan.”

Through The History Project, the children are encouraged to compare both renditions of history, critically analyse the texts and make their inferences. By placing the two texts side by side, the prejudice subtly taught by the educational apparatus becomes apparent.

In Pakistan, for instance, a 10th grader’s history book delineates the partition of Bengal as, “Curzon [the Governor-General of India] felt that the Muslims in East Bengal would be better off in a separate province governed by Dhaka. However, Hindus saw it as a deliberate plot… they were not ready to accept any step that would benefit Muslims.”

The same event described in an Indian textbook reads, “The Indian nationalists condemned the partitioning of the province and saw it as a deliberate attempt to divide Bengalis on religious lines. The nationalists were also upset… because it showed no regard for public opinion within Bengal.”

The History Project’s firstborn, Partitioned Histories: The Other Side of Your Story, is a book that binds the dual accounts sprawling across a timeline of 1857 to 1947. Sanaya Patel, a third-year law student in Mumbai, co-authored the book with Sidra Zia, who is the Content Director leading the team from Lahore. Working on the Indian version, Patel compiled texts from five varying schoolbooks (belonging to the curriculum designed by several school boards).

“While going through the books, we deliberately tried to pick out sections that had some kind of strong, hidden biases,” said Patel. “As children you wouldn’t notice these biases, but somewhere subconsciously they become a part of you. So when I sat down to look for these elements, it was overwhelming. Also, when I received the final copy of Partitioned Histories, I sat and marked the parts in the Pakistani version that I thought were different from what I had learned in school. It’s interesting to see that there really is a difference.”

Courtesy: The History Project
Courtesy: The History Project

At select institutions in Pakistan and India, The History Project holds a five-session, activity-based workshop. Designed with the help of an ex-Harvard University faculty member, the workshop aims to teach children about multiple perspectives. One of the sessions involves taking two children aside and asking them to simulate an argument. The reason for the argument is unknown to the rest of the class. After the argument has ended, the class is expected to come up with reasons for what the cause of the argument may be. “Interestingly, no one knows the real reason, but everyone will give their opinion,” said Patel. “And that’s how we are learning history in schools – as students we don’t know really what happened in the past, but we are reading someone else’s perspective. What we are trying to do through THP is to make students realise that history is not a set of facts but a perspective, and it’s important to know whose perspective you are looking at.”

Prejudices, nationalism and animosity towards the presumed other are deliberately instilled in children at a young age. Ahmad got to experience it first hand when during a workshop in Mumbai, a student stood up and condescendingly asked what he was doing there. “The girl must have been 11-12 years old. I didn’t get offended, but I felt sad because she didn’t even know me. All she knew was that I was a Pakistani.” At the culmination of another workshop in Pakistan, a student approached him and said that she understood that he was trying to teach that the other side wasn’t inherently devious, but she felt angry every time Indians were mentioned. “The kid really didn’t understand why or where that anger was coming from,” said Ahmad. “How do we fix these issues of hatred and intolerance?”

Last year, Galaxy School in Rajkot, Gujarat, was the first in India to introduce The History Project’s book into its curriculum. “Growing up, we’ve heard biases such as Muslims have a major fault (sic) in all the events that took place,” said Advait Ketan Gosai, a 14-year-old student at Galaxy School. “But when we were given both the sides of the story, we were able to analyse both motives, which we often reject when it comes to the other side. In their eyes they were right. I may not entirely agree with them, but I can understand their perspective better now.” Across the border, in Pakistan, Noor Nabi Noor Mir, a student at Lahore Grammar School agrees. “In a larger sense, The History Project has helped develop humanity within me. I think the best takeaway is that we get to learn how to understand the ‘other’.”

So far, The History Project has worked with over 700 children in both the countries. Eventually, they intend on introducing histories of more countries. “We’ve started working on other narratives – there aren’t inconsistent narratives of India-Pakistan alone. There is enough historical conflict in the world, like Israel-Palestine, for example. So we are now looking at things that could be interesting, but also relatable,” says Ahmad. “By the end of our workshops, I wouldn’t say that we hope to completely shift the children’s worldview – that would take a much longer process, but I hope they become more open to the idea of the existence of alternative narratives.”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.


To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.