A virtual tour into the Anglo-Indian community

MemoryBytes, an application, allows user to get information on a scanned image

August 25, 2022 12:30 am | Updated 12:30 am IST - CHENNAI

The exhibition on Memory in Digital Age at the ICSR Building, IIT-M campus.

The exhibition on Memory in Digital Age at the ICSR Building, IIT-M campus. | Photo Credit: K.V. SRINIVASAN 

A document certifying that a 46-year-old bachelor had married an 18-year-old spinster some 200 years ago allows a peek into the life of Anglo-Indian community in the city.

The document is part of a photo exhibition organised by the Centre for Memory Studies, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. The Centre is currently hosting a two-day international conference on Memory in a Digital Age.

The meticulous research by Merin Simi Raj, faculty in the department and principal investigator at the Centre, has led to the exhibition of rare photos. She says she became interested in the history of Anglo Indian community in 2015 and began her research, reaching out to the community across the country.

She had to fall back on the archives in the U.K. and Australia as part of her research to understand the community, its history and perception of two homelands. After the academic pursuit, she decided to let its history speak for itself.

The result was MemoryBytes, an app. By scanning a photo through the app, one gets related information on the image. The photos were sourced from the archives and some were provided by the families themselves. There is a tiny section on cuisine as well. The app comes with a timeline of Indian history since the arrival of the Portuguese in Western Indian coast in 1498, and traces major events across the centuries, including the British government’s decision to encourage inter-racial marriages, the struggles for government jobs subsequently and their acceptance into Railways, the birth of the ICSE Board and eventually the migration of the community’s members in search of a homeland to other countries.

It also includes photos of famous personalities through the ages, including contemporary celebrities such as cricketer Roger Binny and writer Ruskin Bond. It uses virtual reality to bring alive comic strips and cartoons, making for a magical journey into the past to participate in a community’s life. The funding for the project came from the Institute, she said.

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