This year, the Kolkata Partition Museum Trust (KPMT) will be launching a Virtual Museum in August, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India’s Partition.
The Virtual KPM, or V-KPM in short, is a collaboration between KPMT & AUR (Architecture Urbanism Research), an architectural firm headed by the Indian architect Aurgho Jyoti, based in New York and New Delhi.
A dedicated team has been working on this project since last April. Here’s introducing them…!
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #1
Inspired by a deep love of museums in general and the Holocaust Memorials of Berlin in particular, Roy is a literary scholar who felt compelled to make the leap from years of doing the academic study of Partition to initiating a project about the public memorialisation of it – focussing on the experience of Bengal.
Her doctoral & postdoctoral research has been, respectively, on Partition fiction in English and in Bangla (the latter focusing on the literature produced from West Bengal). Her doctoral research in India was supported by two UGC Fellowships – a Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) & a Teacher Fellowship under the Faculty Improvement Program (FIP) of the Xth Plan; and her independent post-doctoral research was undertaken at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden.
Apart from numerous papers on the subject, Roy’s major work in this field is ‘South Asian Partition Fiction in English: From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh’ (Amsterdam University Press, 2010; her other AUP publication, in 2013, being on post-millennial, Indian English fiction). She is currently co-editing a volume of essays with Prof. Sekhar Bandyopadhay and Dr. Jayanta Sengupta, on the latest research on the Bengal Partition of 1947.
Roy has had an unusual teaching career – spread over two decades – teaching at multiple institutions in Kolkata, Leiden & The Hague. And she leads a parallel life as a writer (of several genres), which she extends to create and curate content for KPM.
Since 2017, her energies have been chiefly invested in institution-building; and she has been invited to speak extensively on the ongoing KPM project at various institutions and forums.
About the team, she says:
“Co-coordinating the incredibly talented Virtual KPM team with Aurgho Jyoti has been one of the most exciting things I’ve done so far. There is so much to learn from everyone.”
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #2
AURGHO JYOTI is the Founder and Creative Director of AUR (Architecture Urbanism Research), an international architecture practice operating out of New York and New Delhi. He is the Chief Architect for the Virtual Kolkata Partition Museum Project, through which he intends to curate sensorial experiences in an atmosphere of monumental materiality that constantly addresses history.
His architectural work aims to create social and cultural significance through interventions that provide ‘spatial specificity’ and ‘temporal
continuity.’ AUR’s current projects include Buddhist cultural projects with the World Bank, institutional, social, and residential work.
He holds an M.Des in Architecture and Technology from Harvard and an M.Arch-II in Architecture and Urbanism from Cornell as a Tata Scholar. He has conducted research on housing and materials at MIT Media Lab and Harvard. He holds a B.Arch with distinction from SPA, New Delhi.
Aurgho previously worked as a Project Lead and Senior Architect for internationally acclaimed and Pritzker Laureate offices, which include SOM, OMA/Rem Koolhaas, Gehry Technologies, Studio Fuksas, and 3Gatti Architecture Studio.
With a cross-cultural international experience, he has lived and worked in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Rome, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New Delhi, and Calcutta. His architecture projects span across the US, China, Italy, France, Georgia, Japan, and India, including high rises, institutional, and cultural buildings.
Aurgho’s works have been published and exhibited in the US, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Turkey, and India, at venues that include, amongst others, Seattle Architecture Foundation, Heritage Museum in Astoria, Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco, Harvard University, Alliance Francaise Delhi, and India Habitat Center Delhi.
Aurgho’s awards include ‘20 Under 35’ by Alliance Francaise Delhi, SOM Prize in Architecture Finalist, Special Mention in Evolo International Competition, New York, and National Finalist for Bhopal War Memorial and Ujjain Planetarium.
“Partition”, he says, “not only has a familial connection to the past in the form of stories from my grandparents, but as a practicing architect, it holds answers towards identity and meaning formation in the subcontinent. Regarding the team, it has been wonderful to learn from historians, literary scholars, and artists.”
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #3
SUBHRADIP ROY is the Director of AUR (Architecture Urbanism Research), an international architecture practice between New York and New Delhi. He serves as the Project Architect for the Virtual Kolkata Partition Museum Project, leading the digital environment and design resolution.
He holds a B.Arch from SPA, New Delhi, where his thesis on housing was the best thesis project of the year. He has conducted extensive research on housing over the years.
He is a practicing licensed architect in India with an interest in materials and construction technologies, merging local materials with contemporary building technology. With a system-based approach and a thorough understanding of building engineering systems and structural systems, Subhradip integrates technological understanding throughout all project phases. He leads design development, documentation, and administration of projects at AUR. He has extensive project experience in residential, commercial, cultural, and landscape projects in India.
His projects range from small to medium scale residential and office interiors to residences, housing projects, and factory buildings. His cultural projects include Buddhist Circuit projects in Sarnath and Lumbini with the World Bank, and public projects include the central park in Namchi, Sikkim, a part of India’s Smart Cities initiative. His landscape experience includes landscape design for factory complexes and campuses, office buildings, and parks. He has worked as a Senior Project Architect with DAAT.DA, SWBI, and Polaris, and seen many projects from early conception to completion.
Subhradip’s works have been exhibited at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi as part of the Urban Habitat Forum and at Annual NASA Conventions. He has been National Finalists for architecture competitions like the Bhopal War Memorial and Ujjain Planetarium. He led the project team for finalist entries for the Noida Botanical Garden Competition and DDA Bus Stop Design Competition.
About his involvement in this project, he says:
“I am interested in how the physical environment transformed with Partition and it is still a significant social factor that is shaping the society. The significance of the museum for Kolkata and Bengal is historical and that draws me to the project.”
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #4
SAYANTAN MAITRA – Curator, Scenographer and Architect
Born in Kolkata, Maitra is an architect by qualification who pursues a career in art by choice. He is a graduate from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
As a scenographer, he has produced and designed several museum shows of international stature which led him to explore himself as a visual artist, doing site specific interventions with LAYOUT Collective and curatorial insertions in public spaces.
He is Chief Coordinator of the NGO, ‘Shelter Promotion Council’ (India). It is a voluntary organisation consisting of social activists, architects, engineers, scientists, artists, environmentalists and planners. The council has produced public art festivals in Sikkim called “Blooming Sikkim Public Art Festival”; and “Hornbill Public Art Festival” in Nagaland, the first of its kind which comprised a melange of new media art and contemporary art addressing issues of socio political and environmental nature in the North East of India. The council has also produced “No Man’s Land”, a public art project at the international border of India and Bangladesh, in East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya.
Maitra is the proprietor of an interactive design firm called ‘Illusion In Motion’, based in Kolkata. His architectural studio is based in Kolkata and Durgapur. He is visiting faculty at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. He has been a ‘India Foundation for The Arts’ Grantee, 2017-18, for his work with the Naga tribes and architecture of Nagaland.
About his motivation to join the team, he says:
“My interest in the subaltern, impacts of climate change, human migration, man-made borders and biophilic design provokes me to understand and study history and landscape in person and in-situ.”
PC : M. Pravat
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ Team #5
AREFIN is a Design Technology Specialist with HOK – working on the Centrus Joint Venture to rehabilitate the Canadian Parliament building.
He has worked for design-tech startups like Sunglass and Digital Blue Foam, and interned at Stantec. He has a PhD from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, and B.Arch from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India.
His interests lie in the intersection of design and technology, with a focus on data visualization and user experience.
Arefin’s research has been supported by funds from The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Bentley Systems, and Autodesk.
He has published at prestigious venues such as Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA), Design Computing and Cognition (DCC), and renowned journals such as Design Studies.
Arefin also led workshops at SmartGeometry 2016 and Advances in Architectural Geometry (AAG) 2018, again funded by Bentley Systems and Autodesk; and taught several design-based courses at the undergraduate level on topics such as representation and fabrication, user experience and user interface design, human-computer interaction, spatial design, computational design, and 3D modeling / scripting.
He wants to contribute to efforts which use technology for the preservation of history and cultural heritage – both of which he is passionate about.
About his involvement in this project, he says:
“Advancement in human-centered technologies has enabled immersive experiences that let us engage with both tangible and intangible cultural heritage and historical media in novel ways. Through a web-based portal and VR, I hope to create an evocative experience for not just survivors of the Partition but also for later generations”.
MEET THE VIRTUAL KPM TEAM #6
Born in Chapra, historically an important town in Bihar, DEBASISH MUKHERJEE grew up amidst open spaces and railway colonies, mixing freely with people from a range of social backgrounds. He was artistically inclined from a young age; hence, when the time came to choose a career path, he opted for art school to pursue his passion. He graduated with a degree in Fine Arts, specializing in painting, from Benaras Hindu University – where he was much inspired by his teacher Balbir Singh Katt.
Rooted in India, Mukherjee manifests his keen observations of India’s built environment, social fabric and events from his day-to-day life into his art practice. His work tends to interrogate the way an object or memory is preserved, celebrated or neglected.
Displacement has been a preoccupying theme with Mukherjee. He has always been drawn to the human impact of the massive displacement brought about by the Partition; but in his own art practice, he looks at it in a large and contemporary context, and his quest oscillates between personal memories and a deeper sense of loss engendered by them. He aims to distil the architecture of memories into visual metaphors, as exemplified in his works for both his solos, ‘The Museum Within’ (2016) and ‘River Song’ (2019).
He has been part of several prestigious group shows in the past few years, the most recent ones being: ‘Artissima’, part of Hub-India ‘Classical Radical’ (a Tripartite Museums Show, at Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti, Turin, 2021); ‘The Legacy of Loss: Perspectives on the Partition of Bengal’ (a KPMT & KCC collaboration, conceptualized by Rajasri Mukhopadhyay, 2021); and ‘Stand with Bengal’ (an online exhibition to support Cyclone Amphan victims of West Bengal, organized by MASH, Ina Puri & KCC, 2020).
Debasish is also an avid photographer. He lives and works in New Delhi.
About working in this project, he says:
“Being part of the Virtual KPM team, I remain more connected with the subject I have been dealing with for sometime. Thanks to Rajasri for introducing me to KPMT. The Virtual team is really a great team of talented people from different fields connected by one common passion for Partition history. I learn everyday a little from them… everyday I am enriched a little more”.
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #7
ANINDITA GHOSHAL is an Associate Professor of History at Diamond Harbour Women’s University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Her area of research includes Partition and refugees’ studies with special emphasis on eastern/northeastern India and Bangladesh.
She has been awarded many grants/prizes including Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship (2015), an Academic and Foreign Travel Grant from ICHR (Cardiff University, UK, 2013), ‘Gautam Chattopadhyay Memorial Prize’ by the Paschimbanga Itihas Samsad (2013), Research-Writing Fellowship From Calcutta Research Group (2012), UGC Minor Research Project Grant (2010) and an Academic Affiliation from the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka (2009).
She has worked as principal investigator, in a research project titled, ‘Experiences and Experiments of Refugeehood: a Study of Camps-Colonies and Spatial Change in Northeast India’, under the aegis of the Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati, Assam (2017-2018).
She worked as a co-investigator on a Research Project with Professor Peter Gatrell, titled ‘Reckoning in Refugeedom: Refugee Voices in Modern History, 1919-1975’ as co-investigator, under the aegis of School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the Manchester University, UK, funded by UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (2018-2021).
In addition to numerous publications in reputed journals and edited books, she has presented her research in seminars, conferences and webinars in India and abroad.
Her first monograph, ‘Refugee, Borders and Identities: Rights and Habitat in East and Northeast India’, was published by Routledge (global edition, 2021); and her second book, an edited volume – ‘Revisiting Partition: Contestation, Narratives and Memories’ – is forthcoming from Primus (2022).
About her involvement in this project, she says:
“This amazing team is doing something about which I’m very passionate as a researcher and academic. Therefore, I jumped at the idea of joining this team when I got a call from Dr. Rituparna Roy, chiefly to contribute a bit from my end. I’m sure we will come up with some insightful narratives and meaningful work”.
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #8
SUMALLYA MUKHOPADHYAY is a doctoral fellow at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi. His research is focused on the oral narratives of East Pakistani refugees who migrated to West Bengal in the wake of the 1947 Partition. He completed his B.A. and M.A. in English from Presidency College and Presidency University, Kolkata respectively.
His abiding interest in the Partition developed owing to his love for Kolkata football. In his formative years, he was drawn to the innocuous banter between the supporters of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the cultural connotations of which, as he later understood, had an enduring effect on the social landscape of West Bengal.
Previously, he has worked with the 1947 Partition Archive. He was also an archival researcher for the Partition Museum, Amritsar.
Sumallya’s writings on the Partition have appeared as guest pieces as well as journal articles. He has written for The Sunday Statesman, The Telegraph, Kolkata, DailyO.in and LiveWire. His academic essays have been published in the Journal of Migration Affairs (2019), Studies in People’s History (2021) and Narrative Culture (2022).
At present, Sumallya is a South Asia Speaks Fellow, working with Aanchal Malhotra on creative non-fiction based on the Partition. He has also been awarded the International Oral History Association Scholarship (2020) and TATA Trusts – Partition Archive Research Grant (2021).
About his involvement with the project, he says:
“I believe, the spectre of Partition haunts us till date, and it will continue to do so. The lack of a proper memorial culture dedicated to the 1947 Bengal Partition underscores how we have failed to reconcile with one of the most defining moments in the history of modern Bengal. The project allows us to confront our past, remember it and, most importantly, learn from it. That’s why I wanted to be a part of it”.
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #9
SWAGATALAKSHMI SAHA completed her Bachelors in History from Presidency University, Kolkata, in 2018 and her Masters in Modern History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, in 2020.
She is currently pursuing her MPhil in Social Sciences from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and working as a Research Associate for the Virtual – Kolkata Partition Museum project.
She has been a recipient of the ‘Ashin Dasgupta Book Prize’ in 2018 from the Department of History, Presidency University, for being an avid reader of history.
Swagata studies history because she believes “the present has always been determined by what happened in the past. It is a discipline that offers a macro-study of location, time and people and offers narratives and anecdotes that are relevant and pertinent for the present as well as the future, often being thematically repetitive”.
The guidance and supervision that she has received from some of the most distinguished historians of India at both her undergraduate and graduate levels have further influenced her to consider a professional doctoral position in history.
Apart from academics, she is also a professional Odissi dancer under the tutelage of Guru Smt. Sutapa Talukdar and has performed on many prestigious occasions both in India and abroad. She is an empanelled Odissi dancer at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre (EZCC), Ministry of Culture, Government of India & on a formal invitation by the Ministry, has conducted a workshop on Odissi dance in 2016 at Dhaka, Bangladesh.
About her involvement in the Virtual KPM project, she says:
“I belong to a family that was directly affected by the displacement and violence of Partition in both 1947 and 1971. I grew up listening to stories and personal anecdotes of my family’s life in Bangladesh before they migrated to India, particularly from my grandmother, who had witnessed the horrors and was always nostalgic and anxious about a ‘home’ she had to leave.
The Kolkata Partition Museum offers a space to safeguard and memorialize not just those intimate memories and histories, but the experience of hundreds of other people whose lives had been rocked to the core due to Partition. Therefore, I wanted to be actively involved in a project that is so passionately personal and engaging at the same time”.
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #10
ASMITA RAY completed her Bachelors in History from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, in 2018 and her Masters in Modern History from the Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, in 2020.
Currently she is working for the VIRTUAL KPM project and is also interning at the Chamber of art lawyer, Debottam T Bose Esq. She is working there as part of a research group for the production of an art law guidebook tailored to the needs of Indian lawyers and collectors. In the future, she hopes to pursue a doctoral position in Art History.
Asmita’s current research interests lie in exhibition histories, museum studies and material culture, particularly in South Asian decorative arts from the late 19th and early 20th century. She has previously also worked with the National Museum’s Painting Department. Asmita is specifically intrigued by “the potential to uncover complex histories from the analysis of objects placed within the socio-economic and political contexts in which they were produced, utilized and observed.”
About her involvement in the Virtual KPM project, she says:
“When I came across the Kolkata Partition Museum project, I was intrigued by its vision and potential. The virtual museum offers access and memorialisation of a new and different kind. It is quite fitting that this project – which seeks to commemorate the wide range of people affected and displaced by partition in both 1947 and 1971 – remains untethered to a particular location. Additionally, working under the supervision of experts on the team has been an enlightening experience”.
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #11
MOHANA CHATTERJEE did her graduation in History Hons from Bethune College, and Masters in History from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. After clearing the UGC-NET examination, she is currently pursuing her PhD from Diamond Harbour Women’s University, under the guidance of Dr. Anindita Ghoshal. Her PhD topic revolves around the Partition refugees who were rehabilitated in the Dandakaranya region.
In the past, she has worked as a guest lecturer in Acharya Prafulla Chandra College, Kolkata, in its post-graduate section. Currently, she is a Research Assistant for the Virtual Kolkata Partition Museum Project.
About her involvement, she says:
“The uniqueness of KPM – as stated in its mission of memorializing the experience of Partition in the East – had attracted my attention and I wanted to be a part of their team from the very first time I heard about it. As a Partition scholar, I strongly believe that there should far more work done in this area; I am myself trying to fill in a lacuna with my research in Dandakaranya & consider myself absolutely blessed to be a part of this wonderful project.”
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL KPM’ TEAM #12
Hailing from the state of Tripura, GITANJALI ROY did her schooling and graduation from Holy Cross, Agartala. She completed her Ph.D from Department of English, Tripura University, on Digital Literature.
She has been teaching English Literature for six years. Currently, she is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Faculty of Liberal Arts, ICFAI University, Tripura. She has co-edited the book, ‘Orality, Folk and History in the 21st Century’.
About her involvement in the project, she says:
“The 1947 & 1971 stories from Tripura are hardly digitally documented anywhere. The tribal and the non-tribal communities of Tripura have many untold narratives that are yet fresh in the memory of the Tripura people. The possibility of documenting the tales of ‘ae-par’ (this side) & ‘oi-par’ (that side) of the land, in virtual form, made me join the KPM project”.
MEET THE ‘VIRTUAL-KPM’ TEAM #13
FIRDOSI AKHTARA BASID is a doctoral student in the Department of History, Assam University, Silchar. She is contributing to the Virtual Kolkata Partition Museum Project by “assembling oral narratives of India’s Partition” from different parts of North East India.
She holds her Masters’ Degree in History from Gauhati University, with a specialization in Modern Indian History.
She has worked as a Research Assistant, on the project, “Survey, Collection, Documentation and Digitization of Archival Sources of North East India”, at the North East Regional Center of ICHR. Her work in this project hinged on Monitoring and Evaluation, where she had successfully digitized more than 2000 British Government’s hand-written letters from the period 1926-1947.
FIRDOSI is pursuing her PhD in Assam University since January 2018, focusing her research on the “Ramifications of India’s Partition on the Tribes of North East India”. Her research is mainly based on extensive field work, which has led her to travel more than 3000 kms. of borderlands sharing international boundary of North East Indian States and Bangladesh. She has already published many papers based on her research, on different platforms.
About her involvement in this project, she says:
“My study being centered on India’s Partition, it has been an emotional journey for me while collecting the oral narratives bearing the freight of the vivisection. The quintessence of all those stories is pain, which needs to be acknowledged. The Virtual Kolkata Partition Museum Project will be doing so through its own ‘Oral History Project’. Regarding the team, it is an honor to work with such diverse personalities from various fields.”
The entire Virtual-KPM team, would like to say a special THANK YOU to Ananya Jahanara Kabir & Anam Zakaria.
Ananya is Professor of English Literature at King’s College, London. An Infosys Laureate in the Humanities (2018), her current research explores the concepts of transoceanic creolization through cultural production across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.
Her book ‘Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971 and Modern South Asia’ (Women Unlimited, 2013) ushered in a new, more subjective dimension of Memory Studies with respect to Partition in South Asia & remains influential after almost a decade of its publication.
Ananya has been one of the staunchest supporters of KPM ever since its inception, and had been with this team for several of its early meetings in 2021, brainstorming ideas and helping us understand our way forward.
Anam Zakaria is a Canada-based Pakistani writer and oral historian.
She very kindly and readily agreed to do an Oral History Workshop with us last July — sharing her experience of doing interviews for the books ‘The Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians’ (2015) & ‘1971: A People’s History from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India’ (2019).
The Workshop helped us immensely in the Oral History Project that we have undertaken as part of our work for the Virtual Museum.
We hope to continue having their support in our journey ahead!