As I build History Hive , the ebbs and flows become an every day routine, a part of my start up journey. But my purpose and vision to get more and more people connected with history through this venture becomes even clearer and stronger. History Hive was launched early this year with 'My History Kit' , a stationery product that encourages people from diverse age groups to record their personal history. Why personal history? Because it is in our very own history that we find that inspiration, direction, meaning and the ability to build a life of our choice.
What makes personal history? It is our family stories, experiences and milestones. But what kind of family stories, and experiences and milestones one may ask? Let's look at an example of a family story in this particular blog.
This blog traces one of my family stories, one that is rooted in the Partition of this country - a historic event of 1947. It's a story that gave my family a tragedy and a different identity. It may have been decades since the occurrence of history's most bloodiest event, but it continues to define who I am - my roots, the place where I belong and , most importantly , it is an event that shaped my relationship with my grandfather.
Just like any other personal history journey, I am encouraged to go back in time when I struggled with school, teachers and the monster that was Math. Vacations were all that mattered in life back then, for they not only provided a much needed relief from all the Math teachers who hated me but also they were a time for grand parents and their stories that encompassed everything from Hindu mythology to fairytales.
My grandfather, or dadaji, as I fondly called him, did not believe in drawing influences from tales that were not real. His stories were narratives from his own life, with every experience being a lesson to be learnt. One such summer, he shared a portentous experience of his life. While my fellow classmates busied themselves in finishing their holiday assignments, I, choosing to ignore the need to improve my weak mathematical skills, heard out the story of my family’s migration. A migration that began in a village, now located in Pakistan, and ended in a tent at a refugee camp in Delhi. The story, now imprinted in my mind, was to surreptitiously shape my personal and professional life.
It was in 1947 that my family found itself at the doorstep of history. While living a life, full of contentment and luxury, with his wife and two daughters in Lahore, my dadaji was perhaps oblivious of the political turmoil brewing between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, two significant parties leading India’s struggle for independence. The demand for a separate state for the Muslims was an ongoing one and was eventually realized after the passage of many government acts, missions and direct action days! As Sir Cyrill Radcliffe, Chairman of the Border Commission, demarcated the line between India and Pakistan, my dadaji hurriedly packed, wanting to catch the next train to Amritsar. In a state of disquietude, he left his home of many years, escaping the prying eyes of his neighbours, who may now have turned his enemies. Having survived history’s bloodiest migration, he first made his way to Delhi and then to Lucknow, where he would give his family a new life and a new belonging. Years later when my brother and I were born, we were made to believe and accept that our roots lay in Lucknow, when actually they were far away in a country with whom we have fought many a wars and continue to be at political loggerheads.
My family made no contribution to any events leading to the partition of the country. Their signatures and names do not appear on any essential governmental documents, pertaining to the Partition. Whether my dadaji wanted to be uprooted and displaced from his native village, his place of birth, his physical and emotional anchorage, did not matter to those chalking out a division plan in their corridors of power.
However, does that relegate his presence in history?
Study of history is largely isolated in the periodic shells of Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Battles, leaders, movements overcast many a histories, hitherto hidden and untold. Beneath our monuments are buried personal histories of individuals, families, who may not have delivered a momentous speech but their lives closely intertwined with an epoch making event. The Partition of 1947 became that event for dadaji and my family. Their story of this gory migration remains unwritten and unheard.My dadaji is no more and his presence is dearly missed, especially during dry summer afternoons, when his tales of personal history provided lessons for life.
It was this family story and the times that I spent with my grandfather that first led me to take an interest in history and then make it a profession. However, now I think it's also time that I delve deeper into this family story before its lost forever. Delving into this personal history, will also bring about a discovery of my own belonging, one that is deeply rooted in my dadaji’s narrative of the Partition.