17-year-old brings The Partition Museum to life through mobile app

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 15:32 IST | Krutika Behrawala |

A 17-year-old student takes the crowdfunding route to bring The Partition Museum in Amritsar to life through a mobile app

Though 17-year-old Viren Gupta admits he wasn’t a history buff in school since it involved mugging up dates, the Indo-Pak Partition of 1947 is a chapter close to his heart. “I grew up hearing about it from my grandfather, Dharamchand Lath. He had to flee as a 10-year-old from Jhelum to Gurgaon in a garbage truck. Penniless, he survived on leftovers for two months before he could enjoy a warm meal. He witnessed a lot of bloodshed, too. The Partition affected him deeply,” shares Gupta, a Class 12 student of The Sri Ram School, New Delhi.

Two months back, when the teenager heard that The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust chaired by Kishwar Desai was setting up The Partition Museum in Amritsar, he connected with them with the idea to digitise the experience using a mobile app. “Over 17 million people were displaced by the event. By showcasing aspects of the museum, I want to make it accessible globally and also encourage youngsters, who may not know much about the significance of the Partition, to visit it,” shares Gupta, who launched a `6 lakh crowdfunding campaign on Wishberry this week. While the basic skeleton of the app is in place — developed by Sparklin, the team behind the Paytm app — the 30-day campaign enables Gupta to raise enough funds to design, maintain and host the free app on Android and iOS platforms. He aims to launch it next month.

Viren Gupta with his grandfather Dharamchand Lath, a survivor of The Partition
Viren Gupta with his grandfather Dharamchand Lath, a survivor of The Partition

What’s on the app?
One of its main features is Oral Histories, where users can watch recordings of stories narrated by survivors of the Partition. Along with a few recordings curated from the museum’s bank, Gupta has also recorded a narration of his 80-year-old grandfather. “There’s also an option for users to record their stories. A camera button on the app directs you to your smartphone camera. You can record a survivor’s story and upload it on the app for approval,” says Gupta, who will administer the app post its launch before the ownership is transferred to the trust.

The Phulkari coat, a common piece of clothing in the regions affected by the Partition is one of the artefacts on the app
The Phulkari coat, a common piece of clothing in the regions affected by the Partition is one of the artefacts on the app

Exhibits at a click
The Artefacts section of the app gives a glimpse of objects that are part of the museum’s exhibits. “I have added six exhibits on the app. These include clothes, and letters that people from Pakistan wrote to their families in India,” he shares.

It also includes a timeline of events that led to the Partition. Gupta used the information resources provided by the museum, which has roped in the LSE South Asia Centre as its academic advisor.

Partition on film
With a team of camerapersons, the teen visited Mumbai to interview filmmakers who have dabbled with the subject in their films. These include Shyam Benegal for his National Award-winning film Mammo (1994), Govind Nihalani for his television film Tamas (1998), which deals with the plight of Sikh and Hindu families in the wake of the divide, Ramesh Sippy, who helmed the drama series Buniyaad (1986) and Tisca Chopra, who acted in Qissa (2015). “These are four to six minute videos including short clips from the films too. We will add more interviews at a later stage,” he sums up.

Log on to: www.wishberry.in

Did you know?
During his research, Gupta came across WH Auden’s poem titled Partition, which talks about Cyril Radcliffe, who divided India into the three parts — India, Pakistan, and East Pakistan. It reveals that Cyril had inaccurate data and outdated maps; he was also suffering from dysentery at the time. He still finalised the move. After separating the states, he returned to England and burned the documents. “This shocked me as nobody knows what calculations were made or what motivated him to draw the Radcliffe Line,” recounts Gupta.

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