I moved from India to the UK with my parents when I was seven years old – but thanks to frequent visits to a wonderful family home in Calcutta, loving grandparents who impacted my life despite spanning continents, my grasp of my own culture flourished and appreciated as I amassed a multitude of rose-tinted memories of my homeland.
The Indian Memory Project will resonate with anyone with ties to India – be it a native, a visitor or a far flung on-looker with borrowed memories. The project is the response of an online call of Mumbai based photographer Anusha Yadav who wanted to give a virtual voice to the mesmerising photos and stories amassed by Indian families pre-Facebook and Flickr era. The pictures, which range from formal portraits to casual holidays photos, are fragments of life in India between the 1890s and the 1980s.
“We don’t really know much about our own country,” said Ms. Yadav. “It’s so diverse but all we see are clichés.”
The project is a growing online archive that aims to trace India’s history through the intimate lens of family pictures [which I plan to contribute to one day]. The submissions are so multi-layered and absorbing – I found myself falling in love and investing in these characters of India’s past – for example the WSJ writes “In one picture, dated 1953, an army officer poses triumphantly next to a tiger after a hunt. This was just one of the 13 tigers Captain Prabhakar Raj Bahuguna killed in his lifetime, explains his daughter in the text that comes with the image. She goes on to say that her father, filled with remorse, became an active conservationist later in his life. He even blamed his failing eyesight on the tigers’ revenge.
Another picture, taken in Delhi around 1923, shows two teenagers shortly after their marriage. “It was unusual for couples in our family to be photographed, especially holding hands,” writes Sreenivasan Jain. It “turned out to be an indication of the unconventional direction their lives would take.” They went on to become Gandhians and freedom fighters. Their activism meant both ended up spending months in jail. Ammaji, the woman pictured above, later gave up her Rajasthani choli, or mirror-work embroidered blouse, and wore only hand-spun cloth.”