There’s no telling the tonnes of evidence budding archaeologist Arsh Ali (18) may unearth, given his knowledge of 15 ancient written scripts including Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Currently, Arsh is busy deciphering the nuances of the Indian subcontinent’s ancient Harappan script, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation.
“It’s very unusual and highly commendable for such a young scholar to take deep interest in a dying subject. Arsh is a genius, having mastered so many ancient scripts all by himself,” acknowledges Dr. Vasant Shinde, vice chancellor and archaeologist of the vintage Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute (estb.1821), Pune.
The elder child of Lucknow-based businessman Faisal and homemaker Fatima Ali, Arsh is a student of the City Montessori School, Gomti Nagar. This precocious teen is set to write the NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) class XII exam in June 2019 rather than the ISC school-leaving exam, as he believes NIOS’ relatively liberal attendance requirements will give him more time to pursue his interest in antiquity and archaeology.
A chance encounter with a conservator at the Archaeological Survey of India’s regional headquarters sited within the city’s historic Bara Imambara, resulted in Arsh being invited to meet with Dr. Jamal Hassan, then director general of the excavation department, ASI, Delhi. Impressed with his depth of historical knowledge and love for archaeology, Dr. Hassan invited Arsh to participate in an excavation together with postgrad students at a Harappan era site in Bijnor (Rajasthan).
“I became interested in India’s rich history when I started visiting museums, historical sites and monuments with my parents from age four onwards. My fascination for ancient monuments has grown over the years and I love sketching them. Luckily, I have a pictographic memory which helps me draw even while I’m at home,” says Arsh.
A recent visit to Egypt and its national museums in Cairo and Alexandria have set Arsh on a fresh trail of investigating the practice of Buddhism in ancient Egypt. “Emperor Ashoka was a great disciple and proselyter of Buddhism and there’s emerging evidence that he sent proselytising ambassadors to Egypt circa 268-232 BCE,” he says.
Looking ahead, Arsh says his mission is to “gift humanity the key to mysteries that lie beneath history”.
Wind in your sails!
Paromita Sengupta (Bangalore)