As we stumbled upon the Museum Of Material Memory-- a virtual museum on Instagram, we realised that every materialistic possession tells a story. The concept of this virtual museum revolves around documenting and tracing family histories through objects.

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During a particularly trying phase of her life, she had to sell off a few valuables to keep the home fires burning. Having come from a family with limited means, she was no stranger to adversity. She had married into a family with immense wealth and a lifestyle she could never fully comprehend. From her mum-in-law and Misser ji, she learnt how to hone her culinary skills and win over her extended family, most of whom were highly skeptical of her initially. As a result, the bartans provided her with a sense of victory and validation apart from serving as a reminder of all good times and warm memories. When the debts rose in number, she chose to do away with the more unique items of personal use such as a carved silver thermos, a jooda pin (an ornate pin to hold a bun in place), a carved clothes brush and coins, instead of the dozens of katoris in her possession. She also held onto a shingaar box, complete with a hairbrush, handheld mirror, powder box and sindoor box, all made with ornately carved silver. . An exceprt from 'The Legacy of Sheesh Mahal' by Deeksha Jhalani. Link in our bio #museumofmaterialmemory #family #history #delhi #calcutta #objects #heirlooms

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This virtual museum collects pictures of objects and artifacts that have been passed down several generations. These pictures are then posted on social media platforms with the owner's story as the caption. 

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This object is called a ‘Surmedaani’ and belongs to my mother, Shamim Begum. A beautiful silver bottle, whose top handle is ornately carved with floral patterns. It contains within it a dark ceremonial dye called Surma applied- by both men and women- over the lower waterline of the eyes to darker them. It is often also applied to the eyes of children as it is known to have medical properties. Though this can be found in the cosmetic cabinets and vanities of many homes in the subcontinent, it is special to me because my mother carried it across the border with her from India to Pakistan, during the Partition in 1947. Like many other people, my mother along with her husband and four children abandoned their home overnight and migrated to the newly created state. She was only able to pack a few things but she remembered to pick her surmedaani . 'An excerpt from 'The Surmedaani of Shamim Begum' by Jawed Kamal and @farjad.kamal #museumofmaterialmemory #pakistan #india #partition #home #family #object #heirloom

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On the occasion of Independence Day, we've managed to handpick artifacts that beautifully narrate stories from the partition. 

Jailed for participating in the Quit India Movement,  Shri Haveli drafted a letter, requesting for a 2 month-long parole, to attend his daughter's wedding. 

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For partaking in the Quit India Movement, Shri Haveli Ram Musafar was chained and sent off from the locality in Rawalpindi to jail along with his friends and accomplices- not just once, but several times. In March 1944 he found himself in prison once again. However this time, it was crucial that he be released, if only for a short period, for his eldest and only daughter, Krishna Chadha’s wedding was to take place in Rawalpindi. He wrote a letter to the then Punjab Government asking for a two-month leave (parole). He was jailed in a town called Sambrial, not very far from where the wedding was to be held. To his relief, he was granted the leave, but there were stipulations to be adhered to. A part of the approval document states the following, “The permission to leave Sambrial for a period of 2 months shall not mean any relaxation of the directions given in the order of the Governor of Punjab restricting his movements. He should report his arrival and departure to both the police stations at Sambrial and Rawalpindi.” He attended his daughter’s wedding and returned back to jail with dignity to serve his term. . An excerpt from 'Memoir of a freedom fighter : A letter from Sambrial Jail, 1944' by @anurag_anand #india #pakistan #rawalpindi #freedom#jail #indiannationalcongress #war #freedomfighter #britishraj

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Tilak Raj dropped out of BHU to participate in the Quit India Movement.

After migrating from East Pakistan, a 10-year-old wrote a letter to his father, requesting him to send his certificates for school admissions. 

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Having migrated from East Pakistan in 1948, post the Partition, my father's family were unable to set themselves up quickly in their adopted city of Calcutta and stayed with relatives. My father stayed with his mousi (maternal aunt) in Tollygunge and because there wasn't enough space for everyone, his parents stayed with his mama (maternal uncle) in Bansdroni. In this letter written on an ordinary brown postcard in blue ink, we can see the hesitant handwriting of my father, all of 10 years at the time! Words are written in a large, animated size and strung together in small sentences, complete with cross-outs and spelling errors. There are blots, where the ink would have run, and careless folds that have set into the paper over the years. The front of the postcard bears a round stamp in black ink, the words TOLLYGUNGE, 7 February 51′ clearly legible. The body of the letter, when translated from the Bangla, reads along the lines of- “Respected Father, I want to get admitted to school over here so I need the certificates. Please get them as soon as you can. Without them, I will not get admission in a school here in Kolkata....How are you? I am fine!” . An excerpt from 'Letter from Tollygunge' by Sangita Sanyal and Aanchal Malhotra. Link in bio. #museumofmaterialmemory #letters #postcard #pakistan #calcutta #memory

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This couple belonging to two different sets of ideologies, pasts and cultures came together with the partition. 

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While my grandmother, Prem Kanta Anand, belonged to a family of reputed police officers under the Raj, my grandfather, Bharat Bhushan Anand, was the first son of a freedom fighter and Congressman, Haveli Ram Musafar. Two extremely different ideologies and pasts that came together after the partition. Her life with my grandfather included a lot of relocating and socializing. She was fond of making new friends and meeting new people since dada ji’s job required him to travel frequently. They were the most romantic couple their peers knew of. I remember my father mentioning incidents where my grandmother would light his tobacco pipe despite being strictly against smoking. She would do this because she thought it was extremely stylish and she would even prepare the pipe for the smoke for him. . An excerpt from ‘The immortal pieces of metal by @anurag_anand. Link in bio. #marriage #relationship #grandparents #pakistan #india #museumofmaterialmemory

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Binda Saran a.k.a Rai Bahadur showing His Excellency, The Governor of Punjab, Sir Bertrand James Glancy the flower beds in their home garden.  

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Nanaji’s father, my great-grandfather, Binda Saran, had been conferred the title of Rai Bahadur by the British for loyalty to the crown. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1940, much before the Partition, and could not even attend the wedding of his son, Devi Saran. But he was a man of great energy and industrial ventures and held many titles- Treasury Contractor to the Government Postal Department, The North Western Railways, as well as the Imperial Bank of India, and had also been elected a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1937. But first and foremost, he was a landowner, and over the years, had built a lovely home for his entire kin and kith. A joint family of over twenty family members, all of whom lived together at 8 Nepia House, Narsingh Das Building, Mall Road. Here he is, showing His Excellency, The Governor of Punjab, Sir Bertrand James Glancy, the flower beds in their home garden. . Subhana Sawhney writes about her family's home and social circle in a pre-partioned Lahore in 'The Chatee from Undivided India'. Link in bio. #MuseumOfMaterialMemory #India #Pakistan #Lahore #Partition #Family #Home #BritishRaj #RaiBahadur

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Image of freedom fighters being chained for participating in the Quit India Movement. 

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Those were days of catastrophe, when the world was engulfed in bloody war. Shortly after Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement in 1942, my great grandfather, Haveli Ram Musafar, was one among many who spent time behind bars. He was a freedom fighter, a husband and a father of 6 children – a daughter and five sons. A member of the Indian National Congress (INC), he was also the Congress Captain in his locality in Rawalpindi. While recounting tales of his fervent patriotism, my grandfather told me that Haveli Ram Musafar once wore a badge of the INC, which displayed a photo of the great Gopal Krishna Gokhale on it, and was asked by a British officer in the area to remove it which he completely refused to do so. Here is a photo of him (second from the right) and his comrades, chained and celebrated, before being taken to prison. . An excerpt from 'Memoir of a freedom fighter : A letter from Sambrial Jail, 1944' by @anurag_anand #india #pakistan #rawalpindi #freedom #jail #indiannationalcongress #war #freedomfighter #britishraj

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Subedar Sardar Singh was honoured with various medals for his service in the No.1 Bengal Mountain Battery Regiment. 

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On 4 November 1886, my Great- Grandfather, Subedar Sardar Singh, was inducted as a Gunner in a newly formed No.1 Bengal Mountain Battery Regiment, raised at Rawal Pindi in 1886, by Capt. C.P Triscott. The medals he earned as a member of the regiment go back nearly 132 years, and I was fortunate enough to trace his military records from the Indian Army List archives dating 1886- 1905. As per the records, he had an extensive tenure in the army, serving in the Burma Campaigns from 1885-87 (in the Third Anglo-Burmese War) and 1887-89. He served in the Zhob Valley, North West Frontier of India (present day Pakistan) in 1890. And lastly, he served in Tibet from 1903-04. For many, medals and other service memorabilia might just be pieces of metal and cloth till the time one realizes the history and the struggle that is undertaken to earn them. The courage and sacrifice of my ancestors is embedded within these medals; each disk, each ribbon is laced with their ambition and dedication. . An excerpt from 'A Lineage of Military Service' by Jasbir Singh Mann. Link in bio. #museumofmaterialmemory #britishindianarmy #army #medals #family #history #india #pakistan #burma #war

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Living in the barracks of Kingsway refugee camp, Bhag Malhotra saved up money to get this Surmedani from Chandni Chowk. 

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When my paternal grandmother, Bhag Malhotra, and her sisters came to Delhi from the Frontier Province following the Partition in 1947, Chandni Chowk was ‘the’ place to buy absolutely anything. They were living in the barracks at Kingsway refugee camp in North Delhi, where my grandmother’s elder sister was the camp commandant, and when they could afford to, they’d venture into the Chandni Chowk on the weekends. Nearly 86 years old now, she fondly recalls how Surmewalas would sit in a line outside the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib in those early years of Independent India. This surmedani was one of the first purchases she made there. 10 cms in height, and 3.5 cms at its widest in the centre, this surmedani is forged in pure brass. Though difficult to say when it would have been made, it is handmade – evident from the uneven edges – and is fairly utilitarian in its style, as compared to other, more ornate kohl pots and containers I have seen. The daani, the pot, came separately with it’s suramchi, the long stick (with grooves for when the fingers hold it) used to apply the fine black powder, and the surma itself would have been packed in a small bag. . Excerpt from ‘Glow of the Grime’ by Aanchal Malhotra. Link in bio #museumofmaterialmemory #surmedani #surma #chandnichwok #delhi #culture #tradition

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To protect himself from the communal riots that broke out in Lahore, Mian Baljit Singh brought this 4 feet long sword that weighs over 12 kgs. 

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The story of this sword goes further back, to the year 1924. It once belonged to my maternal great-grandfather, Baljit Singh, born on April 4, 1904, who was affectionately called ‘Mian’ by his friends and family. He was a student at D.A.V (Dayanand Anglo Vedic) College, Lahore, while the rest of his kin lived in a small village named Dattal near Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. During his days in Lahore, communal tension began rising in the wake of an imminent independence and possible partitioning of the land. To protect himself, Mian Baljit Singh bought this sword. Together with the scabbard, it weights more than 12 kg and almost four feet long in length. The handle is made of pure brass and beautifully graved with design. Over time, it had oxidized and weathered greatly, its blade has grown blunt, and yet its glory has remained. Even today, it is as magnificent in shape and form. . An excerpt from ‘The Blade of Baljit Singh’ by Saundarya Chaudhary. Link in bio. #museumofmaterialmemory #india #pakistan #sword #heirloom

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To protect himself from the Partition riots in Lahore, my great-grandfather’s, Mian Baljit Singh bought this sword. I wish I knew more about this object in relation to his life, I wish someone had asked him more about it. I wish someone had questioned the importance of this heirloom while he was still around. But as far as we know, he never had to use it, for he managed to come across the border safely during the Partition. When not on the wall, it is often wrapped tightly and neatly in layers of newspaper to prevent it from further oxidizing. But as most items of age go, this sword holds great emotional value for my maternal grandfather, Col. (retd.) Arjun Singh Manhas. He inherited it from his father, and has further passed it down to his son, my uncle, who will perhaps continue the tradition down the lineage of his own family, adding to the rich history of this aged object. . Excerpt from 'The Blade of Mian Baljit Singh' by Saundarya Chaudhary. #MuseumOfMaterialMemory #India #Pakistan #Partition #Memory #History #Sword #War #Riots #Lahore

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Shanta Boora purchased this Kirpan from a Gurudwara in Daryaganj, the values of this artifact lies in the horrors of partition. 

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This Kirpan belonged to Shanta Boora, my nani , my maternal grandmother. She always carried this with her. It would be with her when she went out and under her pillow, when she slept. She bought this Kirpan from one of the vendors outside a Gurudwara in Daryaganj where she lived after marriage. Even though it was bought many years after Partition, its values are related to the incidents of 1947. During the 1947 riots, safety of women was the major cause of concern. Women were brutally harassed, assaulted and even killed. I am sure she witnessed a lot of brutality while making her way to Delhi. In her old age, she developed obsessive compulsive disorder which could be traced back to the terrible conditions of the refugee camps she lived in during the Partition. She developed a habit of cleaning everything and collecting water in several jars. She would also constantly check and recheck the locks on the house doors to feel secure. At times, it was more than two or three times, probably because of an underlying fear…this Kirpan was her safe place. . An excerpt from ‘My nani’s Kirpan by @racheldavidd . Link in bio. #sikhism #museumofmaterialmemory #religion #partition #pakistan #delhi #gurudwara #sikh

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From the mountains of Multan to the sultry streets of Delhi, this lock has survived over a hundred years.

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I’m told that this lock had originally belonged to my great-grandfather, Malik Devi Dayal ji, who used it to lock one of the doors of their haveli, which I traced to be located at Gali Taali Wali, Hanu ka Chajja. This area is now the Hussain Agahi Bazar, a wholesale market, in modern-day Multan. It is not simply the serendipitous fact that the lock has survived for nearly a 100 years, but also that its life has come full circle. From the mountainous Multan to the sultry Delhi, it has locked the residences of my grandfather and with it, it has kept safe the stories of each of his homes. . An excerpt from ‘A Lock From the House of the Past’ by @surangananama #Pakistan #history #museumofmaterialmemory #india #memory #multan

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A traditional 3-feet-tall Maasina Battalu Peti i.e a laundry case.

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A literal translation of ‘Maasina Battalu Petti’ would be 'Laundry case or box'. According to my paternal grandmother, Jwala Rao, these cases have been around in everyone’s homes since before she was born in 1939. This 3ft tall 1.5ft wide, deep brown teak laundry case had an inlet to put in you soiled clothes, a deep cavity to hold them and a tiny door at the bottom to remove the soiled clothes. It was ‘sasta aur tikau’, it did not need much maintenance and served its purpose just fine as a case to store soiled clothes. You’d lift the lid open from the top and dump in your soiled clothes from the day. Once a week the local dhobi would come around and open the door to the bottom shelf and take your laundry for the week. He would then wash them by the Tungabadra river, dry them on its banks and bring the clothes back home and iron them for an extra charge. This was common practice for a long time and still is in a few households in Kurnool. . Excerpt from How a Laundry Case became a Liquor Cabinet by Prathyusha Kokku. Link in bio. #museumofmaterialmemory #family #heirloom #india #furniture #laundrycase #liquorcabinet #kurnool

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A 31-inches-long, hand made chatte molded out of brass. 

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Molded into a large rounded jar, 31 inches in height and 16 inches in depth, this floor-placed vessel is made entirely of brass and was the container that stored the entire family’s stock of sugar. It was known as ‘a chatee’ and had enough capacity to store at least one hundred kilograms of sugar within it. Looking at its uneven and imperfect surface, my grandfather’s sister, Sarla Kapur, who is now 88 years old, tells me that it was handmade especially for the needs of the family, as it is difficult to find containers of this make or style anymore. The story goes like this – my maternal grandfather, nanaji, Devi Saran, hailed from Lahore and my maternal grandmother, naniji, Kamla Saran, from Amritsar. At the time of their wedding in Amritsar in March 1943, naniji’s father gifted this Chatee to the new family she would be marrying into. It was then brought to Lahore and kept in the family home on Nepia Road. . An excerpt from 'The ‘Chatee’ from Undivided India' by Subhana Sawhny. Link in bio. #MuseumOfMaterialMemory #India #Pakistan #Lahore #Mumbai #vessel #sugar #family

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A coin collection that dates back to 1919, a few of which belong to the pre-war era. 

Coins showcased from 1904 to 1947, displayed in chronological order. 

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My grandmother is singling out the larger silver coins and laying them in a line, chronologically. The collection begins from the year 1904 and ends at a coin from Independence, 1947. From the front of the lineup, she picks one and holds it to the light. Then she wipes it clean and places it in the middle of my outstretched palm. It is heavier than I expect, minted in solid silver, dulling at the edges but still brilliant. ONE RUPEE INDIA 1945. The amount is written in english and Urdu and is surrounded by a floral wreath. Taking it back from me, she says, ‘In my childhood, one rupee was worth a lot of money.’ . An excerpt from ‘The sea of silver’ by Aanchal Malhotra. Link in bio. #museumofmaterialmemory #coin #coincollecting #pakistan #india #partition

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An old baagh brought from the other side of the border, before the partition is now an heirloom that's passed on to generations. 

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My father’s aunt, Auntie Mohinder was born in 1932, well before the Partition. In the midst of conversations about their journeys across, she had once brought out the old baaghs from the other side of the border. Even as a child, I remember being completely fascinated by all things vintage, the once pre-owned, especially something that was part of my family. I remembering revelling in the beauty of the fabric and grazing my hands across the entire length. And as we marvelled over these large shawls, auntie told me and my sister that these would, one day, eventually be passed on to us. She recounted their history — these chaddars had been embroidered by Biji, my great grandmother, Ishar Kaur, for her own trousseau. She was born around 1908, so these pieces would have likely been made some time in the early 1920s. Often in those days, women would collect or make such items for their trousseau - handcrafted or embroidered cloth -  which later could be used to make several smaller items like dupattas, rumaaley, tablecloths and bedsheets. . Excerpt from 'Spreads of baagh and phulkari – an amaanat' by Japleen Gulati @veritaserum72 . Link in bio. #museumofmaterialmemory #heirloom #punjab #phulkari #pakistan #grandparents

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A menu card from R.M.S Queen Mary, dated back to November 1947. 

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A menu card from the R.M.S Queen Mary dated Wednesday, November 26, 1947, belonging to renowned Indian Art Historian, Partha Mitter. On this day, a young professor Mitter embarked on the fastest liner, travelling at 33 knots per hour, from New York in the US to Southampton in the UK. The voyage took five days. Put up in the regular economy class of the vessel, for dinner his family were presented with the choices of Fillet, Hungarian Beef, Goulash, Roast Quarters of Lamb with Mint Sauce, Greens Peas or Braised Onions or Boiled and Roast Potatoes. For desert, Orange Pudding with Cherry sauce, Ice cream, fresh fruit and coffee. #museumofmaterialmemory #menu #food #ship #queenmary #history #india #england

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If you possess an inherited vintage artifact that tells a story, you can contact the virtual museum here.