My Heart Belongs in Delhi: A Photo Exhibit by the 1947 Partition Archive

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It’s been 71 years since India became independent and was broken into fragments, yet the stories of trauma and rehabilitation live on. On this anniversary of the partition of India, the 1947 Partition Archive is commemorating the incontrovertible change in the city of Delhi, through a photo exhibit at the India Habitat Center.



The 1947 Partition Archive records previously undocumented stories of people who lived through the partition. Since 2010, founder Dr. Guneeta Singh Bhalla and her team have collected over 6000 oral histories, now stored in a digital repository in the University of Stanford. People can sign up to be interviewed or become certified Citizen Historians or Story Scholars to interview partition survivors. The Archive organizes frequent events to present their work to the public and to attract a larger audience. This year the event focuses on changes in Delhi through this tumultuous period. There is a special focus on stories of people who either moved to Delhi from far-off lands, or moved across the border from here.


Dr. Guneeta Singh Bhalla conducting a walk-through of the exhibit at the India Habitat Center


As India’s capital, the city of Delhi saw an influx of refugees, large-scale migration to the other side of the border and widespread religious rioting. At first, refugees from across the border took over abandoned homes, making previously spacious areas, congested multi-purpose spaces instead. Erin Riggs, an original team member of the Archive, was inspired by these stories to base her PH.D thesis on the transformation of Delhi. Her research brought this exhibit to life.

Former Story Scholar Ritika Popli and Digital Archivist, Karyn Bellamy helped Erin in this enormous task. Dr. Arshiya Lokhandwala, Art Historian curated the exhibit, while Guneeta Bhalla curated the content. Graphic Artist Yufang Lin curated the photos and Manisha Seam organized the event.


Photo-stories in the exhibit


I’ve been associated with the Archive for over a year and their work never ceases to amaze me. There is a strong sense of communion amongst all the members, and it’s a wonderful place to work where independent thought and research are encouraged. One also receives immense satisfaction from collecting stories and knowing they’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Each story has a wealth of fascinating detail and inspirational lessons to teach.

The exhibit at the India Habitat Center is a small glimpse into the personal lives and thoughts of partition survivors from both sides of the border. Apart from reading the photo-stories, attendees are encouraged to trace the history of their families’ migration on a life-size map of India. This massive historical episode touched the lives of many people, so this exhibit will resonate with everyone.

I attended the launch reception yesterday, where Mr. Munjal of the Hero MotoCorp presided as chief guest. Despite being one of the largest industrialists in the country, he humbly shared his personal story of migrating from Lyallpur, Pakistan to Ludhiana, without any airs or hesitation. His story and those of countless others serve as reminders of the indomitable human spirit that can conquer all travails.

I would recommend everyone visit this small yet impactful exhibition. It will take 15 minutes of your time but will stay with you for a lot longer.


Adarsh Saran- a partition survivor and interviewee whose story is part of the exhibit


Venue: Convention Foyer, India Habitat Center (Entry from Gate no. 3)

Days: August 14 – August 17

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Entry Fee: Entry is free but everyone is encouraged to donate any small amount to support the work of this organization.

Donations can be made by clicking here


Dr. Guneeta with Mr. Munjal of Hero MotoCorp at the launch reception


With Dr. Guneeta Singh Bhalla


The Story-Map of Migration


With all the team members and volunteers at the exhibit

If you like this post, you may enjoy these as well:

An introduction to the 1947 Partition Archive

Swapping Stories with Fellow Archive Members

Recording a Podcast on the Partition of India

Review of Book “Laid to Rest: The Controversy Over Subhash Chandra Bose’s Death”


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