Voices Pushpesh Pant Rohtash Mal Aparajita Jain Ravi Shankar Hetal Sonpal Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev MAGAZINE Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment NEW DELHI October 17 2021 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Family Fables Company I wish I had asked my grandparents and parents more about their lives,” is a common regret for many Family Fables Company a bespoke publishing business, attempts to address this . , by helping individuals, families and institutions document their personal stories. Recording her grandmother’s life encouraged founder Samrata Salwan Diwan to launch this venture. Her team of oral historians, researchers and designers meticulously interview family members across the globe and rummage through their documented memories to create keepsake books. There was a significant increase in inquiries during the pandemic from people looking to preserve their heritage in uncertain times. A recent project was the memoir of Group Captain Himmat Singh Ravubha Gohel to mark his centenary Based on detailed logbooks, . hand-written notes, newspaper clippings and photos, ‘Flights of Valour’ pans his 30-year career, where he flew with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces across Japan and Burma during World War II, airlifted troops and casualties in the 1947-48 Kashmir Operation, and led the nation’s first Republic Day flypast in 1950. “There is a growing body of scientific and anecdotal evidence that life reflection is a powerful medicine for senior citizens. The chance to tell their stories improves cognition, reduces depression, and enhances behavioural functioning.” —Samrata Salwan Diwan Past Masters Conservators of personal history are protecting familial legacy through bespoke books, archives, legacy food projects, heritage textiles and curated conversations By Noor Anand Chawla P rofessor Ruchi Ram Sahni from Lahore lived an a trustee of, and the Punjab Legislative Assembly debates interesting life in the waning years of the British which he attended as an MLA. This extensive eight-yearEmpire. As one of few English-educated Punjabis long project resulted in the book A Memoir of Pre-Partition of his generation, Sahni was a polyglot who Punjab: Ruchi Ram Sahni 1863-1948. could read and write Persian, Pashto, English, “I think more and more people are beginning to write Gurmukhi and Hindi. He worked on radioactivity in Nobel down family stories. Although one has never taken family Laureate Sir Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory in Manchester, stories seriously before, there is motivation when one reads UK, and strongly advocated science education for the someone else’s family stories and sees how similar those masses, as well as social and religious reforms. His varied stories are with one’s own. People of my generation and interests led him to compile 15 detailed volumes called The also the younger generation have realised the value of these History of My Own Times, which family events and how important they are even for unfortunately were misplaced after his historians. The flavour you get from these books is death in 1948. quite different from what you get in history books. When his great-granddaughter, The same events described by English historians sociologist Dr Neera Burra, was tasked of the time and those described in autobiographiwith editing his autobiography she , cal events are quite different,” explains Burra. made it her mission to locate these Social media made it easy to missing documents. Her search took document our lives, and the her to Lahore, London and the US, but pandemic gave people time to reflect finally she found several volumes of his on what is truly important to them. writings in the Chandigarh archives. While some enterprising individuals She also relied on son Arudra, an take this task of preservation in academic, for help with internet their own hands, many organisaresearch, the testimony of long-lost tions offer it as a bespoke service, relatives from around the world, papers and yet others do it as a public from the India Office Library in service. The one thing in common? London, digital archives of The They all document the extraordinary Tribune newspaper, which he had been Sahni; the cover of his autobiography in the ordinary . 1947 Partition Archive D r Guneeta Singh Bhalla founded the 1947 Partition Archive in 2011, when she realised that the partition of India was becoming a distant memory for most people. By documenting the oral histories of its survivors, she hoped to revive the memory of this traumatic event in people’s consciousness. Twelve years on, this global organisation has recorded nearly 10,000 partition survivor stories, succeeding in its goal of creating meaningful conversations on the subject of the Partition. She believes the pandemic led to an increased awareness and hence interest in the documentation of oral history in general, which further allowed the organisation’s work to gain traction. Of the numerous projects they are currently involved in, a ‘Reconnect App’ to help people find places and people left behind at the time of Partition, as well as its first physical memorial project (an immersive experience quite distinct from a typical museum), are the most anticipated. They are also working on mass-posting their documented oral histories globally . “The key to talking about trauma is not to be afraid of it—it’s actually a cathartic process for people to be able to express their feelings.” —Guneeta Singh Bhalla Turn to page 2
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