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.

1 comment:

  1. This clip ALWAYS makes me cry :)

    I love the sound of his voice...he sounds so thrilled to be relaying this story. CAP has, undoubtedly, been one of the most profound experiences of my life.

    Well done Mariam!!