Listening to Aanchal Malhotra on Memories, Oral Histories, Objects, and the Need for Archiving

 


I like listening to podcasts and discussions these days. There's something in the spoken word and being spoken to, that influences me, motivates me and delights me as well in equal measure. Owing to the current situation, many interviews and conversations around books have come up in the online platforms, be it Facebook lives or Instagram lives. And YouTube is serving as a great repository for these videos too. One such is Aanchal Malhotra's conversation here. She is the author of a non-fiction book "Remnants of a Separation" that deals with individual accounts of first generation migrants of the partition. She captures memories around a certain tangible object that the bearer carried with him during the migration, while leaving behind their home. The sub-continent was divided into three parts over the years, decades infact, and history in its ideal sense is not able to capture the diverse experiences of multitudes, the millions who were a part of the world's greatest mass migration in the entire human history. So here she works as an oral historian, striving to archive, document, individual memories, though not 100% reliable factually, yet relevant enough to be preserved for posterity. Oral history archives are the only ones that cannot be influenced by those in power, because of its sheer specificity and diversity. Winners don't get to write history here. One's version would not weigh down the other. 

This book had moved me a lot in the last year. I have reviewed it here.  And this Youtube video is conversations around this book. How we seek a glimpse of our homeland, wish to converse in our own mother tongue while away from it... How we have a renewed sense of respect for our roots after we are miles away from it.. What all experiences as a teenager, what collective family histories of the author, and ideas led to this book... All the interesting intriguing conversations she had with people in and around Delhi, Lahore, Multan, and UK, while researching for this book... How important it is for each one of us to archive our own family histories at least from now on.. Tales around objects like medals, tumblers inscribed with someone's name, certificates during the British Raj.. How she deals with her own mental well-being after choosing to document a rather harrowing experience of someone... and so much more. It is 1 hr 30 minutes of engaging dialogue I urge everyone to find time and listen. We would appreciate literature and history and arts so much more.

I am eagerly awaiting her next work, that deals with accounts of Indian sepoys in World War II. 

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