History outside classrooms

Nov 03, 2018, 08:59 IST | Vinitha Ramchandani

To think that my kids, who are increasingly wary of the places I take them to, were engaged and happy to be here, is the litmus test of young adult-engagement that is so hard to find at this age

History outside classrooms

Sometimes one unearths treasures in the least expected places. The first floor of plant 19A, Godrej, Vikhroli — in the midst of grey factory plants and sprawling space — is a surge of warm oranges and sweet violets, ancient typesetting that you instantly love. To think that my kids, who are increasingly wary of the places I take them to, were engaged and happy to be here, is the litmus test of young adult-engagement that is so hard to find at this age.

So here we were, totally surprised and happy with the first glance of the archives. (I've been to museums and places of history, and this is the first time that I see an approach that is welcoming and one that in no way removes the sense of history; kudos to the Godrej family for a funky version of an archive). My excitement grew seeing the first refrigerator (we had one in my home!), the first cupboards (a Godrej in our day and time was synonymous with the word 'steel cupboard'), the first square locks and safes, the first soaps which includes a series of perfumes that a visitor can spray and inhale for the scent of Godrej soaps. Did you know Godrej had a soap called Vatni? Derived from the Hindi word vatan, meaning
country, it was the soap that actress Madhubala had advertised for.

My excitement stemmed from memories and tracing history, but it was fascinating for the kids too, because Vrunda Pathare, the chief archivist and her assistant, made the process of engagement remarkable. Not only has the archive been designed to constantly evolve and be interactive — through the use of Kindles and audio-visuals — the kids were captivated when they were asked to spot the difference in the way advertising had changed. The design of timelines, the fact that they could touch panels that turned both ways to give multidimensional information, had them riveted. It was the first time they were jabbing typewriter keys and pulling cabinets to see how filing systems used to be.

Every bit of information also had QR codes on them. With a smartphone these could be scanned and the information could be accessed immediately on the phone — even more fascinating for today's young adults.

The Godrej Archives which is a collection of records covering 121 years of the company's history, is testimony not only to the history of Godrej and its contributions to the history of industrial India, but also witness to how changes took place in a country before the British left India and how we surged after they did. Corporate records, ancient annual reports, circulars, sales and marketing records, advertisements (both posters as well as television campaigns), product catalogues, customer testimonials, technical drawings, photographs of products, plants, people, media coverage, personal papers of members of the Godrej family, and memorabilia are some of the elements that you will get to see here.

We were fascinated with the story of a daughter who handed over a picture of her Parsee father who worked in Godrej, due to which a whole work history of her father, his interview postcard and other pictures were unearthed. We got to touch the Padmabhushan, and then we spent a fascinating time at the conservation department where the kids were shown how to work with the paper fibre, how to make their own chemical-free glue and better ways to protect documents, in one's home. They could have stayed there longer. Honestly.

This is a gem. Don't miss it.

Fact File
Where: Plant 19A, Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co Ltd Pirojshanagar, Vikhroli West.

Best for: Boys and girls, 10 years and above
Timings: Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, but call in advance (67964124 /4196) as a gate pass is mandatory at Gate 7 or Gate 1.
Budget: Free
Food: No, please eat and come or carry. Not allowed inside the archives.
Water: Available
Rest Room facilities: Yes
Where else to go: The mangroves are a must-visit, especially now till March since its flamingo-spotting season

Parent Poll: Totally recommend it to schools and parents
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Kids' Poll: Loved the section on typewriters, the conservation lab, and interactive devices
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What's Good: The colours and the pride with which history has been preserved, the range of manufacturing and personal narratives
What's Not So Good: The distance

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