Invoking the ancestors

In my current Netflix documentary fever, I’ve been addicted to the PBS/BBC sponsored television series, “The Story of India” that features Michael Wood, a British historian tracing the history of India. It makes for enjoyable viewing as Wood traces the Dravidian roots in Africa and then actually travels back and forth from Harappa, down the plains of the Ganga to trace history in 1500 B.C. and then Turkmenistan and Central Asia as the supposed origins of chariots and Aryans and the Soma drink mentioned in the Rig Veda, from Patna to talk about the Maurya dynasty to Peshawar to unravel the lost kingdom of Kanishka and the Kushans and more.  It isn’t clear whether his travel schedule was true to the chronology of events, nevertheless makes for some fascinating archeological investigation interspersed with some misfitting Bollywood songs in the background. Sigh !

The third episode of this six-part series discusses the Spice Route & Silk Route and the impact that global trade had on India and vice-versa. Two things that really amused me – India was so self-sufficient that in an almost lopsided barter system, the only imports Indian merchants and kings coveted had to do with a shiny dazzling yellow metal. With an endearing style of a slick of humor, Wood talks about how the fascination for gold has prevailed through two thousand years of dynamic Indian history and has infact prevailed only for one reason – to make ornaments!

The second anecdote mentioned that a common complaint by Romans, as noted in their chronicles, was about how Indian royalty and merchants delayed and faulted on payments. Ah ! We (Indians) are like this only.

The other scene that totally cracked me up (and is the subject of this post) was in this segment about how Romans loved clothes (or was it pearls, hmm, unlikely) and textiles that Indian merchants sent abroad. Wood chats up with this jewelery store owner in Madurai and explains that the owner inherited this legacy of gold trade through many generations of ancestors. In a moment flushed with excitement, the goldsmith chimes in to say that his trade was manned by generations of ancestors and very cutely describes ancestors in a phrase – “father, grandfather, and grand, grand, grand, father, father…”

Haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while !


Found the links to the first episodes on Google Video. There are other clippings of the series on Youtube but I don’t think the entire series is up there.

Episode 1: Beginnings

Attached here, is the episode pertaining to the grandfather anecdote. Fast-forward to 18:04 minutes


One response to “Invoking the ancestors

  1. That is such a coincidence! We are watching the same series.. and loving it… and the ancestry bit is so intriguing… 🙂 Btw, if you are interested in nature documentaries, we highly recommend “Oceans” narrated by Pierce Brosnan.. Its BREATHTAKING!!! I was mesmerised!

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