The idea of preserving the archeological remains is as much a 20th-century phenomenon in Italy as it is in India. Despite that, it is such a treasure trove for archeologists and historians. So much of history is still available – in the buildings, in the works of art and in the writings – that thinking of India we suddenly felt a little poorer. We have a lot of history as well, but it just isn’t preserved or accessible at the same level. In Italy, you can walk through the Roman buildings right below the current ones, you can visit Etruscan tombs and most fascinating of all, you can visit a city like Pompeii, practically frozen in time – with entrances of its homes sporting “Beware of Dog” and “Welcome” signs in mosaics. And while the task of understanding the history continues, a lot is already well-understood with a fair degree of certainty. We almost never get that sense of understanding while traveling in India.
It helps to have a stable population, I suppose, that you can still live in and walk on medieval neighborhood and streets respectively. In India, the preservation of past so often seems to be in conflict with the needs of the present. There also seem to be gaps in history. Periods of which nothing survived archeologically, or those where the archeological remains can’t be understood well because written sources are non-existent or beyond understanding.
Italy introduced a sense of a loss about history in us. A strange thing to happen.