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20.09.2019

How nice it must be to time travel at work, while the rest of us age in traffic. How nice it must be to take cover under family trees, while the government paves paradise to put up parking lots. How nice it must be to call a stranger’s aunt in Kolkata, and listen to the story of the forgotten first Olympic swimmer of British India.

How nice it must be, to be Anusha Yadav.

The archivist who has been running the Indian Memory Project since 2010 – “we made history cool” – launched a new and improved website earlier this week. There’s a new series about pre-1947 Cinema Pioneers (meet the first Indian female filmmaker); a shop where you can buy memories; and a service booth that will make you the star of your family. Go ahead and put this on record.

Strangers And The Knight

For those you don’t remember, the Indian Memory Project is an online archive that traces the histories and identities of the Indian Subcontinent, via photographs (and sometimes letters). Perhaps the most seductive thing about it is, and always has been, locking eyes with strangers from another time. Here you’ll meet lady cops posing in front of the Taj Mahal; a dynasty of forensic experts in Hyderabad; the only non-white students (batch of 1933-34) at King Edward Medical College, Lahore. These are all stories sent in by families from their personal archives; and you can make submissions as well. In its new avatar, The Indian Memory Project is also translatable in 50 different languages.

In addition to editing and archiving the lives of others, Anusha also works with corporates such as Airtel and CRY to archive their memories.  “Companies are not just made up of documents and paper trails; I believe that organisations are people too,” says Anusha. Included in her list of ‘history design services’ is building, researching and designing family trees that make for great wall art and gifts; and creating biographies and photo books for members of your family.

Buy Buy, Birdie

And finally, new to the website is also the Indian Memory Shop where you can currently buy hand drawn maps of Indian cities; India-inspired board games; and a curated list of novels (art, history, photography). Coming soon to the shop: stationery and novelty accessories, but not the Taj Mahal paper weight-kind that you’re imagining.

Speaking of the Taj Mahal, read this, and be reminded that without stories, we’re half empty, and the hands that archive them must not be cut off. So donate to the Indian Memory Project here.

Getting there: Visit indianmemoryproject.com.

Photo courtesy: Instagram.com/tasveerarts.

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