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Walks keep old times alive

Ruchira Talapatra, September 9, 2015, DHNS 0:07 IST

Wider perspective

Delhi’s history geeks are well aware of the groups and organisations working towards imparting history education and awareness about heritage through ‘walks’ and ‘talks’ on historical places, heritage, food and culture. These ‘walks’ and ‘talks’ are a kind of ‘Right to Information’ initiative taken up by whistleblowers who want to reiterate the truth of a concretised structure (example, a monument) or only a mere concept, of historical significance.

A recent example is the heritage talk, ‘An untold love story Aurangzeb and Begum Zainabadi’ by Delhi Karavan (DK) that consisted of an entertaining storytelling session in Dastangoi style. Asif Khan Dehlvi recited an episode, where the so-called cruel Aurangazeb fell in love (head over heels) with Heerabai, whom he named Begum Zainabadi after Zainabad in Burhanpur (Deccan plateau). The session definitely broke some perceptions that one possesses about the tyrant ruler ‘who destroyed temples’ and killed his own brother for the lust of power.

Founder of DK, Dehlvi tells Metrolife, “I had proposed the storytelling session of ‘An
untold love story Aurangzeb and Begum Zainabadi’ heritage baithak at Humayun’s tomb, few days before the Aurangzeb Road’s name change was sanctioned. But after the sanction, I received several calls, asking me if I was going to launch a protest and what all am I going to talk about. I told them I have nothing to do with Aurangzeb personally;
I have never even been to that road.”

Dehlvi has organised many heritage events in the city which are popular for their style and niche presentation. Earlier this year, the DK organised the screening of the film Junoon in a haveli in Old Delhi. The film is about the 1857 revolt and speaks descriptively about the culture and architecture of havelis. For a nawabi experience the audience was also given paan that they chewed on to during the film.

Dehlvi says, “We as talkers have immense responsibility to project the right information. Textbooks give a very narrow view to our history. Because history has many loose projections, in my talks, I always quote two or three historians and passages from books written during the particular era. I also ask the audience for their knowledge and give my perspective too.”

Uncannily enough, most of these societies are not an initiative taken up by academics but rather history buffs coming from diverse backgrounds. Whereas Dehlvi is only a graduate, Vikramjeet S Rooprai, founder of Youth for Heritage Foundation (YHF) is an IT consultant in a multinational company. His passions were fired as he remembers, “When I visited Mehrauli Archaeological Park with my friends, eight years ago, I was awed by the crude grandiosity of the place. I came home and researched on the topic and found that there was not much material on the internet. I kept visiting that place for months. I also learnt Urdu and Farsi to read old documents which have never even been translated”.

“YHF now has over 2,5000 followers on social media,” Rooprai tells Metrolife. “Such groups are required to promote Individual Social Responsibility (ISR). When I organise a walk, I reinstate in people the value of the place we are visiting, the relationship between past and present with regard to architecture and history, and then they
can draw a graph of the future themselves. Through this graph they can decide which step to take for a better future,” Rooprai adds.

Rooprai and Dehlvi also hold talks in corporate offices, MNCs, schools and other organisations where they retell historic events that help in team building, changing the strict corporate structure and encouraging social responsibility.

“Training and team building exercises are a regular affair in corporate agencies. I do the same, but I take examples from history. I explain to the top management, how a wrong decision of a ruler in a historical period affected the society and how one administrative decision taken from the top sometimes harms the local people. This way they are sensitised,” says Rooprai.

Dehlvi is more of a poet. He is invited individually at homes and corporate meetings to give “surprise” to the employees and break their boredom with his poetic
narrations of history.

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