Project dastaan, a peacebuilding initiative which aims at taking Partition refugees back to their homes through videos and virtual reality films, started a year and a half ago. Sam Dalrymple, the co-founder of the project, highlighted various aspects about the Partition and how the idea of taking the once who survived it back to places they yearned for the most, during a session titled Partition Voices at the Jaipur Literature Festival, yesterday.
“I was having a discussion with a couple of my friends on how our grandparents had not really discussed their migration stories but often talked about their homes that they left behind. So, we came up with this idea of going around and interviewing people who had witnessed the partition,” said Dalrymple. His own grandfather, a Scottish by birth, was placed out in Amritsar and Delhi and was so traumatised by the partition that he never came back. “Even though my family has been living in Delhi for the past 30 years, he never once came to visit us.”
They started setting up volunteer team across the border, friends who were studying with him at the Oxford University, helping find places that many survivors talked about and interviewing more. “We used 360-degree videos and virtual reality to film what their houses, temples, mosques and gurdwaras look like today and reconnect with the communities that they had left behind. Many have friends across the borders who they hadn’t seen for the last 72 years, so we aimed at connecting these relations,” shared Dalrymple.
Working as an oral historian, forging for stories involves tracing the people who have now spread across the three countries – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“When we initially started, we had a lot of entities come through social medias to get in touch with us. They were usually the younger generation, who say it’s our grandmother or grandfather who has a similar story to tell.”
However, post the independence, so much has changed across South Asia, be it buildings bulldozed and new infrastructures that have come up, it poses a challenge to pin point the places that people remember.
“When we go over to interview people, the key aspect is to find the locations to remember. So, we need to get visual ques, like a river running through the village, any particular fruits in the region, any farms or any building they remember,” added Dalrymple.
In a nutshell
Project Dastaan, a peace building initiative which aims at taking Partition refugees back to their homes and places they year to see the most through videos and virtual reality films, started a year and a half ago. Sam Dalrymple is the co-founder of the project.