Each of us has our own family history and stories that get passed down from one generation to another.
For London born Anusha Yadav, a professional graphic designer for 15 years the idea of aggregating Indian history via the age old methods of stories and pictures a.k.a. the Indian Memory Project stemmed from “an interest in old photographs”. Anusha started out simple. “Photographs are a way to time travel and imagine how it must have been, who they must have been,” she says.
Exploring the possibilities of the past through photographs formed an escape for her. Of course with technology making headway and the appearance of Facebook, pictures moved from being collections in an album to being a viral visual medium. Thus sprouted the seed, that would eventually grow into the Indian Memory Project. Anusha began to collect photographs meant to be compiled into a history of Indian weddings, but as the larger picture began to grow larger than life, she realised that it wasn’t merely the pictures that mattered, but the stories that went alongside them. “In 2010 I took the Group and expanded it out of Facebook and changed the name from Heritage Photos of India to Indian Memory Project. The project seems to have found a life of it’s own, beyond my imagination and control. As if it was just waiting to happen.”
How this works is that you write in with pictures that have a story, and it gets published and archived into an online database. With almost a 100 entries, the Indian Memory Project is continually widening its base. Gnarled, yellowed pictures of freedom fighting relatives, family portraits and many more unravel previously untold stories narrated by immediate relatives of the people in the pictures.
One such narrative is that of noted journalist Sreenivasan Jain’s paternal grandparents. “This image was photographed in Delhi (circa 1923), shortly after my paternal grandparents Chameli and Phool Chand, got married. She was 14 and he was 16. It was unusual for couples in our family to be photographed, especially holding hands, which turned out to be an indication of the unconventional direction their lives would take. They were both Gandhians and Freedom fighters.”
Yellowed, black and white photographs tell stories of memories stored in them, or moments lost in time. Juhi Pande from Mumbai wrote in with her Indian memory of her mother and aunt at a village fair. “This particular photograph was taken in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh in 1977. My mother (on the right) had finished her graduation and was teaching in a school.
My masi, the bike rider, (mother’s sister) was in her 12th standard. They lived in Etawah, a town by the river Yamuna…There used to be a local mela every year, which the entire city would attend, because that’s what you do when you’re in Etawah. There were food stalls and rides and balloon & air gun shooting galleries. And then there was this photostudio where one could take dashing, avant-garde photographs. So, of course Soma & Rashmi climbed aboard this cardboard bike and posed…This is one of my most favorite pictures. Ever. For everything that it says and for everything that I long to have over-heard.”.
Says Anusha of her dreams for this endeavour, “It is not a hope as much as it is a final goal that it [the Indian Memory Project] must reach. An online, free and open public archive for reference. Education, research, posterity and anything that it can inform you on a grand personal history of India never ever heard or even imagined before”.
For more information, visit the Indian Memory Project
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