Q&A in Pakistani history book: Do you think Jodhaa Akbar looked like Aishwariya Rai’s depiction of her?

Published: October 6, 2015
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This image is from a history book being taught in grade seven and eight in private schools of Karachi.

A few days ago, I was browsing through my Facebook newsfeed and thinking how boring this particular social media website had become of late. Scarcely had the thought entered my head, when I saw that someone had shared this image on their page,

I was about to scroll down, thinking it was probably some ‘blown-out-of-proportion’ news about the Bollywood actress Aishwariya Rai, when I noticed the words “class seven history book” accompanying the image. When I stopped to read the status, image and accompanying text as well as the comments that followed, I was literally left dumbfounded.

This image is from a history book being taught in grade seven and eight in private schools of Karachi. The chapter seems to be about the Mughal Emperor, Jalaluddin Akbar and the image shows Aishwariya Rai who played Jodhaa (one of Akbar’s wives) in the Bollywood movie Jodhaa Akbar, released in 2008.

In addition to the actress’s image and mention of the movie, the book also included other seemingly irrelevant questions such as,

Have you seen this film?

Do you know any of the songs?

Do you think Jodhaa looked like Aishwariya Rai’s depiction of her?

Intrigued, I did some search and found another image shared by the same concerned parent from the same textbook, this time depicting an Indian film poster from 1953.

At first glance, all of this seems harmless and even mildly hilarious. I, for one, remember history lessons to be boring, mind-numbing and sleep-inducing; so, these questions add an interesting twist, if not given much thought. But on a deeper level, there are so many things wrong with the inclusion of these images and related questions in a history textbook for seventh graders.

Firstly, there is the glaring issue that a parent highlighted in the comments – are we now teaching the history of Pakistan through Indian movies? We have all heard how history is skewed on both sides of the border to show their respective selves in a positive and superior light.

So what’s happening now? Is it suddenly okay for Pakistani history students to learn history from the ‘hated’ Indian movies?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no personal vendetta against our neighbours but this just seems inappropriate considering that text books have to be (one would assume so at least) approved by the education ministry which is a government body and hence, should not (again one would assume so at least) be promoting Indian content to Pakistani students in schools.

Secondly, education is sacred. Education needs to be made interesting for students without resorting to such low and inappropriate tactics. Like I said earlier, I remember history lessons to be monotonous and tedious. But that had more to do with how history was taught than the subject itself. Fortunately for me, I loved the historical accounts – tales full of intrigue, love, hate, politics, success and failure – and hence, didn’t do too badly in the subject. But if the authors and publishers are going to argue that they were trying to make the subject more exciting for students, I am sorry that is just a lame argument. Could they really not do any better than,

“Do you know any of the songs (from Jodhaa Akbar)?”

I mean, for the love of God!

Sadly, they are not the first ones to look to India in order to ‘sell’ their product. We have seen ‘the Indian touch’ being incorporated by our movie industry, our advertising industry, heck even at our own weddings.

But there are other ways of engaging students. Perhaps, show some visuals of excavations from the time. Maybe suggest enacting a scene from historical accounts or putting on a play of the same. Instead of asking students,

“Do you think Jodhaa looked like Aishwariya Rai’s depiction of her?”,

There could have been an exercise on comparing Jodhaa’s political prowess and career with that of modern day female politicians. I am sure students would take away a lot more from an exercise like that than they would from a comparison of the actress’s looks with those of Jodhaa.

See, now I know there’ll be some of you by now who are thinking, “What is wrong with her? Why is she getting so worked up over nothing?” But you see, this is not ‘nothing’. This is education. This is shaping up our children for tomorrow.

We do not want to raise confused individuals, do we?

Hate India when playing cricket.

Blame everything on India when something goes wrong in the country.

But teach your own history through Indian movies. Sounds confused to me.

Moreover, there has to be a decorum followed by educationists and schools. Some things are better left to the discretion of parents. I, for one, have always watched Bollywood movies. But I know that some of my counterparts were not allowed to back in the day. Asking leading questions like the ones asked in this book, would make students pressurise their parents into letting them watch the said movie.

And then, what comes next, a movie viewing before an exam?

I admit, I watched Romeo and Juliet before my O-Level English Literature exam and it did help me in remembering the context and dialogues (something that is so difficult to remember in Shakespearean English) but my parents were okay with that. It was a personal decision – not one forced on us by some ‘carried away’ publisher.

Rest assured, concerned parents are and will raise this matter with the school administration. But the question is, is that enough? After all, a seventh grader is aware enough to read, comprehend, and question on his/her own without being prompted. Should this matter not be addressed at a higher level?

The ministry of education needs to question the author and publisher about the intent and purpose behind this irrelevant inclusion. In my opinion, the ministry itself needs to be probed as to how this content passed under their very nose without being questioned and removed.

However, clearly the education ministry is asleep regarding this issue. The same ministry which just two years ago was awake and alert enough to ban Malala Yousafzai’s memoir, I am Malala in private schools in the country. According to education officials, her memoir was not respectful towards Islam and they accused her of being a tool of the west.

I do wonder how asking students if they know songs from an Indian movie is any different.

Ayesha Amin

Ayesha Amin

The author is a lover of the written word, the beating heart and the many blessings of life! She tweets as @AminAyesha (twitter.com/AminAyesha)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Anon

    MQM taking money from India…..PTI taking money from India…….Indian movies used as teaching tools in Pakistan……LOL !……What is happening in Pakistan ?…..Zaid Hamid is back, hope things will be different from now….Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    I read Mughal history in middle school in India and Akbar had his own chapter but Jodha Bai was never mentioned. I had never heard of Jodha Bai until the Bollywood movie came out. History is never stationary, it is always changing with the narrators interpretation. In this case Bollywood took a forgotten footnote in history and made it come alive. I guess having a Bollywood movies makes the subject a little more interesting and who wouldn’t want to watch a movie rather than read a history book. Bollywood has always been Pakistan’s guilty pleasure, it teaches Pakistan everything else, so why not history. In any case, the Bollywood version of history is probably better than the GHQ version.Recommend

  • Arya Pakistani

    Nothing wrong with the question.

    Jodha obviously did not look like a Madras IndianRecommend

  • Critical

    I dont know if Jodhaa looked like Aishwarya Rai….But no way Akbar looked like Hrithik Roshan…

    Akbar was just 5 foot 7 inches and he had thin eyes and had mongoloid features… If Ashutosh wanted it to be historically accurate,he should have chosen Danny Denzogbia instead of Hrithik….Recommend

  • Amit Lunia

    Hilarious translation of world Anarkali in the history bookRecommend

  • Al-Baksitan

    You guys are confused from the day 1..let me prove this by asking u some questions..
    1.Are u confirm that 14th august is the pakistan independence day…if not just search for your answers.
    2.National Language of pakistan is urdu….so its national anthem will also be in urdu…what do u think..
    3.So arabs and turks were my ancestors..and the islam came into being when earth came into being….what say,,,’
    4.India had a moghul rule for 1400 years….read clearly,,or it was only north India..or present india..
    5.Muslims were also at forefront against britishers in 1947 for independence…..ohh really…
    6.Muslim ummah….how about bangladesh a tight slap..
    7.1 muslim=10 hindu…….91000,1971….do u remember….Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    Well, you hit the nail on its head. From platitudes about Jinnah and hypothesis about what he wanted to the love-hate relationship with India, Pakistanis are clearly a confused lot.

    However you mention “history is skewed on both sides of the border” and I would like to correct you there. In India, we learn about history, especially the sordid bits, in a very matter of fact way. In fact, the subject is usually so dry and has no pictures of Aishwarya Rai or Anarkali to catch your eye that you quickly lose interest in the subject itself. I learnt history for 10 years through school and can’t remember a thing. What I know now is stuff I figured out afterwards.Recommend

  • ahmed

    What else…u guys see more bollywood than Indians…but most of u like hypocrite wont say the truth…….so your childrens also find it easily to relate with indian super stars which are now becoming global super stars…how will children learn through gandassa/gujjar/vaishi gujjar etc..etc..or mummar rana and shaan dancing…Recommend

  • PK

    Except Aishwarya Rai is a south-Indian, so there goes your argument…Recommend

  • doesnt matter

    When i was doing BA.LLB integrated course in India, we had a subject of english as part of BA course. Our teacher was such a fabulous one, he devised his own curriculum. We studied approximately 10 films that year which all had a legal or social theme. For e.g. To Kill A Mockingbird, A Few Good Men, Great Debaters, Philadelphia etc. We watched the films, summarised them in our own words, wrote charactersketches, dicussed the social topics in the films (racism/ AIDS phobia etc ) wrote critical reviews etc . It was the most fascinating way to study english. Curriculum does not have to be boring.

    Even in school when we had to study Shakespeare or GB Shaw, we were made to watch movies on it to make it more interesting. I remember enjoying Pygmalion so much more after I had seen “My Fair Lady”. Also I hear schools in Europe have included Harry Potter in syllabus. I wish educators everywhere keep doing things to make learning fun, rather than drab and boring.Recommend

  • ajeet

    Pakistanis are Arab,whereas Aryans were indo iranic tribe.Recommend

  • Kushal

    Danny is too manly for Akbar. He would have chosen someone from Central Asia,Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Scientifically there is no race called Aryan. Except the African all others are branches of Indian origin.Recommend

  • Striver

    Has “Bollywood” now out-sourced it marketing to Pakistan’s educational institutions?

    We are immortalizing a film that has an educational value of zero.

    We are attempting at immortalizing an actress as if she acted in a fact-based historical epic.

    Recommend

  • Critical

    I know you are making a satire…

    But Mughals didnt rule India for 1000 years…In fact,they ruled India just for 331 years…. The longest ruling kingdom in India is the Pala Dynasty which ruled for 409 years….

    While Cholas ruled the south India along with Srilanka,Malaysia,Indonesia,Vietnam right from 3 BC to 1200 AD…Recommend

  • Critical

    Just curious,did you also watch “12 angry men” ??Recommend

  • abhi

    Blog is very confusing, it seems author would be OK if the Pakistani or Hollywood movies were referred by the book.Recommend

  • M.Kamran

    This book is endorsed as a course book at secondary level by the University of Cambridge for O-level students.Plz do a thorough search before blogging. Recommend

  • M.Kamran

    The University of Cambridge has endorsed this book as curriculum for pre O-level students.The writer needs to search thoroughly before writing such a blog.Except the pun intended in the blog there’s nothing more to it.Recommend

  • Sane

    Much damage has already been done with our new and growing generation. They are taught to have Pakistani and Muslim ideology to bring at zero. Education is the backbone to inculcate ideologies. This can be imagined what ideology our new generation shall carry. Much damage has already been done.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    genuine concern…… doesn’t matter whether its cambridge certified book or not; what matters is the filthy content distracting toddlers mind and harming educational spiritRecommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    when this movie was filmed, danny was already in his late 50s , i dont think he could pull it off , no matter how much of a solid actor he isRecommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    madras indian….really ?Recommend

  • abhi

    I am not sure why do you not question the fact that Indian history is being taught as Pakistani history in these text books? Akbar, Shahjahan etc. were Indian rulers why Pakistani children should be burdened by reading about them anyway?Recommend

  • longlivepak

    Nice oneRecommend

  • longlivepak

    Nice oneRecommend

  • longlivepak

    Lol niceRecommend

  • Critical

    U remind me of a Bihari guy who once remarked that I speak Tamil very well…When I told him that I have to,as I’m a tamilian..He was shocked and said that I looked very fair that he assumed I was a north Indian…

    I told him that Hema Malini,Sridevi,Madhubala,Vyjayanti Mala were all tamilians who graced the Bollywood…Not all Tamilians are dark like they depict in Chennai Express nor all Northies are fair…Same goes to the Pakistanis who think all Indians are dark..Recommend

  • AliShahid

    Nothing is funnier than Indians coming to Pakistani websites to reassure themselves that ”India is much better, we learn about history, Pakistanis are confused about Jinnah”.

    Why are you so worried about Pakistanis being confused about Jinnah when your own people are busy making statues of the man who killed your leader Gandhi?

    You people are too confused to decide whether killing your leader Gandhi was justified – and you are worried about Pakistan’s confusions about Jinnah’s visions.

    Is this some form of escapism, unique to India? Your own conditions are so bad that you must flee to Pakistani websites to preach your ”superiority”? Or is it because you can’t sleep at night without tending to your inferiority complex?Recommend

  • sandeep

    stop disscussing india or any indian content…it pops up in the google search..and thats how indians come here…i challenge you go and read some exclusively pakistan content like say some regional election…you wont see any indian comments there…as long as their are no restrictions in internet..indians will go to any website which has indian content dsnt matter it is pakistan or USA,,Recommend