The 1947 Partition Archive: Preserving a Forgotten History
My maternal grandfather- Daljit Singh. He was a teenager living in Delhi and describes the terror of that period. To read his story and many others like his, head over to the 1947 Partition Archive Facebook Page (click here)
Being a mother changes one’s priorities in life. From a busy lawyer working an 11-hour job, I transitioned to changing diapers and playing with my tot at home. What remain the same, however, are one’s interests and passions. Having studied History at the graduate level, and having familial ties with this period of history; the Partition of India and the events leading up to it, always intrigued me. As it so happened, an excerpt of my paternal grandfather’s Partition story, was published exactly a year after he passed away, in January 2017. That is when I learnt about The 1947 Partition Archive (“The Archive”).
I grew up listening to many of my grandfather’s fondly described life stories. He always avoided the ones involving the partition. So it was surprising that he spoke to a stranger about this period of his life, with complete candour. I had to know more about the organization. Within minutes I had scoured their Facebook page and made up my mind to get involved.
My paternal grandfather- Dalip Singh Anand. He was an army officer and helped in the movement of people
Growing up, I would devour literature and movies on the subject. At 13, I read Shauna Singh Baldwin’s “What the Body Remembers”, which opened my mind to the immense suffering of the migrants. It was also instrumental in my decision to study History at St. Stephen’s College.
Picture courtesy: Amazon.co.uk
As is evident from my deep interest in this period of history, the Partition Archive called out to me. The founder of The Archive, Guneeta Singh Bhalla, started the Archive in Berkeley, California while pursuing her Ph.D there. She brought together a handful of like-minded people who shared her passion for collecting stories of Partition survivors, before the generation passed on. Her exemplary vision helped her set up a pan-global organization, with grass-root level participation. The model encouraged regular people to collect stories without the requirement of a specific educational background.
The Archive is organized well, with a set hierarchy of interviewers. The Story Scholars sign up for 3 months or part-time for 6 months, where specific areas of the world are assigned for the collection of stories. They are paid a modest salary as they devote all their time to the job. The easier way of getting involved is to become a Citizen Historian. You only need to participate in a 2 hour webinar and submit an interview within the month. This is not a paid position.
The online workshop I took was conducted by Rohini Ramakrishnan, who was very patient and extremely helpful. Within a week I had conducted my first interview. I chose to interview my maternal grandfather whose story I felt privileged to preserve for future generations. I hope to continue recording more stories beginning with my own extended family members.
An interview in progress
Despite the many teething problems I faced: camera recording, sound and data transfer issues, among others; I never felt discouraged from continuing the work. The Archive members, including Rohini, Alexandra Wells and Ritika Popli were always helpful with their tips and prompt responses. The best part of being a Citizen Historian is that stories can be recorded at your own time, allowing you to pursue your interests while living your life.
In the 70th year of the partition of our country, we must preserve these stories before they cannot be heard again. With the success of the events and exhibits of the Archive that recently took place in New Delhi; I feel positive the Archive will achieve its goal of preserving 10,000 stories from this period of history.
Visit their Facebook page here:
*All images belong to The Archive.