Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How I met CAP

My maternal grandfather (nana) was in the Indian air force at the time of partition. I grew up listening to his stories of dogfights (aerial combat between fighter aircraft), his winning the Clarkson Trophy and various other exciting tales of my country at the time it was being torn into little pieces. I remember sitting by his feet in the garden, playing with his twelve cats and eagerly poring over every word.

From him, I learnt what partition was like for my people. What difficulties they faced, physical and mental. He spoke about how torn people felt when told to leave everything they had and move away to a country being made especially for them. He spoke about leaving family, friends and worldly possessions behind.

Having being born and raised in Karachi, and studying here most of my life, I went through the same rigmarole that everyone else did when it came to learning the history of our country. That green Pakistan studies book, that awful teacher who knew the book by rote, but ask any questions, or have an opinion and all you get in return is a blank stare.

My nana taught me history. Through his words, I learnt about partition; the reasons behind it, the situation and thinking of the times, the political, cultural and religious impact on society et al. It helped me form my own, non-green-pak-studies-book-related opinion about partition, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and even Kashmir.

When I moved back to Karachi after spending nearly ten years living in Canada, I had a chance to spend more time with nana. During this time, he regaled me with the same stories I had grown up listening to. What was really sad was that he was forgetting; some very crucial details and stories were just… lost. Seeing this, my family and I set out hunting for a writer who would record his oral history.

I happened to come across someone who was working with CAP and mentioned my nana. He helped me nominate him for CAP’s Oral History Project. When the interns arrived at my house I remember my nana’s eyes lit up. He turned to me and said, “ it feels so good to know, that my work won’t die with me. My story will stay alive and Alayna (his great grand-daughter, my niece) will be able to hear the same stories you did growing up”.

Here is an audio visual installation created using his interviews and photographs by the Oral History Project.

Within a week, I heard from Sharmeen O. and she asked me in for an interview as the interns had told her of my personal interest in CAP. When I walked into CAP office I was thrilled, curious, intimidated and excited, all at the same time. I offered up two hours a day as volunteering time. I was there for two hours the first day… eight hours the next and then I just didn’t leave.

Now I’m Project Manager here. After working at CAP for over 9 months I have learnt so much. I have so many stories and so many experiences. I’m looking forward to sharing them with all of you.

In the meantime, feedback is much appreciated. Let us know what you’d like to see on here!
Until next time… lets make history so we have something worthwhile to preserve ;)

Mariam B.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oral History Project: Jeevay, Jeevay Pakistan

An Oral History Project Clip about the song 'Jeevay, Jeevay Pakistan', based on our interviews with the very prolific Jameeluddin Aali.

Follow the link above, subscribe to our videos and stay tuned!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hello world

Welcome to the Citizens Archive of Pakistan blog. This is the first post and I'm really happy to be writing it.

I run the Oral History Project in Karachi, Pakistan.

Oral history is the recording of people's memories. It is the living history of everyones unique life experiences. Oral history enables people who have been hidden from history to be heard, and for those interested in their past to record personal experiences and those of their families and communities. The Oral History Project has been recording oral history since June 2008.

Through the interviews, unbelievable stories have emerged of implausible acts of political strategy, as well as heart-warming accounts of courage and personal strength.

We aim to capture the stories of personalities from Pakistan's partition generation for our permanent archives. However, just as importantly, we value our collection of interviews with the many 'behind the scenes' pioneers and characters such as artists, musicians, radio and TV personalities as well as Pakistanis from all walks of life who lived and experienced life in pre-partition India and the 1947 partition of the Indian Sub-Continent.

By conducting and collecting oral histories and photographs these stories are recorded, preserved and made accessible for generations of Pakistanis to come. As with all historical records, oral histories provide important information on incidents from the past. Being able to hear the story from the participants themselves adds yet another, richer dimension to our collective national memory. This is an ongoing project and its scope includes stories spanning six decades of the country's history.

So what can you expect from this blog? Stay tuned... You'll get to meet the people who make the CAP office work, who come up with the most brilliant ideas, the interns and volunteers that give us their time - the people I'm lucky to work with.

You'll find out about our up-coming projects and events and hear from some fabulous guest-bloggers who have given CAP a helping hand along the way.

Who are the amazing people we meet while working on the Oral History Project?

What are some of the (weird) and unbelievable stories emerging from the CAP office?

What is the School Outreach Tour?

And what does S.O.C have planned next?

Thank you all for your support and kind words.

OHP shameless plugging: If you wish to nominate someone for the Oral History Project, please do contact us at citizensarchive@gmail.com

Check out www.citizensarchive.org - All interviews are used to create an audio-visual film clip.

Each clip is a record that encompasses the personal stories of Pakistanis involved in events that shaped our nation, the reminiscences of high achievers in their field or the everyday lives of those who witnessed the early years of our country and the memories of the nation at work and play.

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan’s Oral History Project is all-inclusive: Pakistanis from all walks of life are eligible to be interviewed. The audio-visual nature of the Project ensures that even if you are unable to read or write English or Urdu, you are still able to interact with the history of your nation.You can watch one of our film clips on the website!

Photo by Kohi Marri - 1600 schoolchildren visited the Shanaakht festival on 8th April. This is one of many images from the day. You can visit our Facebook group (The Citizens Archive of Pakistan) to check out all the other photos. This is my personal favourite.