An oral history project, which attempts to capture the histories of people ranging from migrants to those crafting wedding songs for different cultures missing from traditional textbooks, is likely to start from July.
The project, which has been in the pipeline for the last few months, will begin after signing an MoU between the Delhi Archives, falling under the Arts, Culture and Language Department of the Delhi government, and Ambedkar University. “The MoU will be signed soon and after that, the project is likely to begin from July,” an official said. An ACL department official explained that the idea stemmed from an effort to document the lives and stories of those who lived in the capital, shaping it to become what it is today.
The oral history project has two facets — capturing the oral testimonies of eminent personalities and simultaneously looking at the testimonies of common people. “The idea is to try and capture the Delhi that doesn’t get captured in tourism brochures or in history textbooks. This is a city made by the people and their stories,” said the official, adding that about Rs 27 lakh has been sanctioned for the same.
The project will look at varied aspects of the capital — from culture in Old Delhi to that in the villages of rural and urban Delhi; from migration that continues to shape and alter the city to wedding songs that change over the years with varying cultural influences; from issues pertaining to women and their space in the public sphere over the years to changing caste relations.
Citing an example, the official spoke about Mughal weddings. “Today, Delhi has a number of opulent weddings. Many believe that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan spent Rs 32 lakh for the wedding of his eldest son. Even today, wedding functions continue to be a key facet of cultural life, and a window into the lives of those in Delhi.”
The project will be handled jointly by the Delhi Archives along with the centre for community knowledge at the university. “Right now the methodology on how these persons will be selected is being worked out. For that, we have a number of experts who will be helping us,” added an official of the Delhi Archives. The information, officials said, will be made accessible to researchers and the general public in an effort to “take history outside the realm of Lutyens”.