I recently read about time capsules in an article reviewing the main events of the newly concluded year 2008.

During the July 2008 summit of the G-8 (governments of eight nations of the northern hemisphere-Canada, France, Germany, the U.S., the U.K. etc.) in Japan this year, the implications of, and measures to combat global warming were discussed.

Their summit documents, along with current newspapers, were buried in a time capsule at the mountain resort of Toyako in Japan. The time capsule will be reopened in exactly 100 years time. Hopefully, the danger of global warming will have been halted by then.

The name ‘time capsule’ was coined by American public relations counselor and author George Edward Pendray.

A time capsule is a historic cache of information or sometimes objects, indended to be used to communicate with the future. The time capsules which are placed on purpose are generally supposed to be opened at a pre-determined date.

Time capsules are in the news in India, too. In June, this year, P & G, India and the NGO, CRY, developed India’s first ever 100 year Shiksha Time Capsule for a social cause.

“Shiksha is a national consumer movement that empowers consumers across the country to participate and support education of marginalised children in India. P&G and CRY buried a two feet by two feet acrylic box containing 10 specially chosen education memorabilia that represent what education means to us today.”

If time capsules are meant as a way of communicating with future generations, then perhaps the pyramids which housed the mortal remains of the ancient Egyptian rulers, were meant for this purpose as well as tombs?

Many objects such as vessels, furniture, gold, representations of servants were buried with the dead Pharoah. Whether intended for the purpose or not, these objects have provided a lot of information about that civilization.

If written accounts are placed in a time capsule, the situation is a bit different. Written accounts of events that have taken place can never be just accounts of these events. They are some one’s interpretation of these events. They can never be completely free of bias. 
If we read Swatantryaveer Savarkar’s account of the events of 1857, we would see that it was a “Swatantrya Sangram” (Freedom Struggle). But in an account written by any western historian it would be mentioned as a “mutiny”. It all depends on how you view the event.

If we were to bury a time capsule containing recent newspapers, what would our future generations think after opening it?

The recent terror attacks, recently concluded elections in several states, the prelude to the upcoming general elections, the drama of selecting candidates, statements of politicians,- the newspapers would contain some quite interesting information.

If there were several different newspapers of the same date, the people of the future who would read them would not believe that they were reading about the same events. The interpretation of each newspaper would be so different. They would be quite confused trying to decide which interpretation was the correct one.

Maybe we should not try to influence the interpretation of our history by future generations.

Better instead to create our present in the best way that we can, and leave the interpretation of our present to the future!