History sheeter

Updated: Aug 10 2014, 07:29am hrs
IN JULY last year, when Anusha Yadav reposted a picture of one Anupa Jacob (nee Nathaniel) with her closest friend Shalini Gupta, her website IndianMemoryProject.com went viral. Yadav, a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan, saw just about 600-odd visitors a day, but this old, black-and-white picture got over 12,000 clicks, besides being shared on several social media portals. Nothing unusual about the photograph, except that the two ladies featured in it, along with a few others, had apparently formed the countrys first-known girl rock band in the mid-1960s, called Mad Hatter.

The contributor of the photograph, Delhi-based Anisha Jacob Sachdev, is Anupas daughter. She writes in to say the photograph was taken when her mother and her friends were in school at the Convent of Jesus & Mary in Delhi. They would have been around 15 years old... One of the most interesting parts of my mothers life was that Shalini, some other friends and she formed the girl rock band called Mad Hatter in their first year of college at Miranda House. My mother was the lead guitarist and singer. Because of that status, when the Beatles performed, albeit privately in Delhi in 1966, the Mad Hatters were given front-seats priority.

Since its inception in 2010, Yadavs Indian Memory Project has been creating several such memories. It has been dramatically changing the way personal histories, narratives, photographs and archives are rediscovered, explored, understood and presented to the world. Inspired by Yadavs success, eight other countries are now beginning to work on their own projects based on her concept.

Other than that, the Indian Memory Project has won two awards, has been featured in almost 250 publications and media channels worldwide, and has had 12 lakh visits since its inception, says Yadav, who was born in London, but came to India at the age of five years when her parents decided to move back to the country.

Yadavs Web project was born when she was doing research for a book on Indian weddings. With diverse cultures within India, it would have made a most interesting book. I wanted to research ceremonies and traditions, all that are gradually disappearing behind the curtain of Bollywoods quick-fix yet elaborate weddings. I was hoping I wasnt the only one interested and I wasnt mistaken, she says, adding: However, in the Facebook group that I had created for the purpose, people began posting all kinds of old photos, with very interesting anecdotes. Almost everyone had an interesting story, an accomplishment that they wanted to share.

So, in 2010, Yadav took the group and expanded it out of Facebook. With just 15 stories, and with the help of a free blog, she formally founded the Indian Memory Project. Applying images, letters and stories from family archives (sent and collected from contributors), we are reconstructing a personal and visual history of a subcontinent that is rich, vivid, informative and even more surprising than we think, explains Yadav, an alumna of MGD School, Jaipur, and NID, Ahmedabad.

The impressions of an Irish memsahib from 1895, for instance, speak of how women were treated in India then; more than a century later, nothing much has changed, she adds.

Incidentally, Yadavs is a not-for-profit project. I do not like online ads, at least not on the Indian Memory Project. I feel a project like this deserves integrity, respect and honour in the presentation and the showcasing of personal and national stories and histories rather than a focus on revenue. However, Yadav has had the honour of getting some financial patronage from strangers, friends and acquaintances and that has helped the website grow more, which has been exceptionally helpful. The money will come in other forms, with collaborations, image licence facilitations and as a consultant to other projects, she says.

Family or personal archives of photographs and letters hold a treasure trove of incredible and historically valuable information, says Yadav. They hold astonishing secrets, and when they reveal themselves via narratives, they become the missing links to a countrys emotional and personal history, she adds.

The firsts of many kinds, love stories, stories of Partition (for example, late music lyricist Anand Bakshis storywhen his family members were fleeing their hometown overnight during Partition, they were told that each person could take only one thing with them. He carried a photograph of his late mother), each one of them fills Yadav with a childish awe.

They have something new to reveal each time. And I want to share that same awe with the world, she adds.

Kunal Doley

Past forward

Some of the photo narratives from IndianMemoryProject.com

My mother, Mohini Goklani. Pune, Maharashtra, circa 1950

In the picture my mother is wearing Awara pants, a style made famous after the well-known actor Raj Kapoors movie by the same name. She is also very nonchalantly holding a cigarette, albeit unlit, between her fingers! The photograph is totally incongruous with her personality, for copying Nargis, the star actress of the time, was more my moms style whereas my aunt Duru was bolder and more tomboyish.

Contributed by Sunita Kripalani, Goa

Hand-painted in New York (in 2000), my maternal grandparents, Lahore (now Pakistan), 1923

My grandparents, Balwant Goindi, a Sikh, and Ram Pyari, a Hindu, were married in 1923... Balwant Goindi owned a whisky shop in Lahore. He

was a wealthy man and owned a

Rolls-Royce. During the Indo-Pak Partition, he and his family migrated to Simla without any of his precious belongings, assuming he would return after the situation had calmed down. However, that never happened.

Contributed by

Dinesh Khanna, Gurgaon

My grandmother, Kanwarani Danesh Kumari, Patiala, Punjab, circa 1933

My grandmother was fondly called Brownie by her family and friends. She was the wife of the late Maharaja Kumar Aman Singh of Bijawar (now in Madhya Pradesh) and the daughter of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (Punjab) who was known as the proud owner of the world-famous Patiala Necklace manufactured by Cartier.

Contributed by

Sawant Singh, Mumbai