Writing about past events, people and places is a very good habit. It may be in the form of regular journal entries or an occasional outlet of feelings on paper. Here’s why. Firstly it is an important record of the past. It helps one to have a dialogue with oneself and reconcile with unhappy memories. Such writing has also been proven to have healing powers.
Indians, in my opinion, are not keen documenters or recorders of the past. However a number of Indians (the common man) I know have had the discipline to maintain diaries for several years. These diaries can turn out to be rich sources of information for family members across generations and historians alike. Photographs also capture the past very well. Almost every Indian middle class family has albums full of black and white photographs going back 50 or more years. Most of them are not well maintained and will probably get damaged beyond repair in a decade or two. With the advent of scanning technology and availability of low-cost scanning facilities, it is imperative that these photos are saved from destruction i.e. scanned and archived. It is better, if the scans are sorted and selected ones published online – something done easily and for free. Apart from the nostalgia of looking at old photos, such content and information available online helps the next generation connect with their roots.
The sad fact is that we never have time for personal projects. Everyone acknowledges the need and the value in preserving memories by keeping a record of ongoing events, digitizing legacy content, and maybe bring them all together in a finely crafted book. However, with a busy life such tasks are always at the bottom of one’s priority list. Even after retirement from service, very few people get to complete this satisfying and rewarding work.
The other factor is the skill needed in completing a project. Writing skills, designing skills, publishing and printing knowledge are keys to completing a personal history project. And not everybody can write down their memories, especially the elderly and the indisposed. But will they be therefore deprived of the benefits of writing? Enter the personal historians. These are people trained in eliciting information in a gentle manner. Their time spent with clients usually have a deep healing effect. And they convert these conversations and legacy documents into a book that will remain with the family for generations to come. Children of elderly parents, staying away from them, can do themselves and their parents a huge favor by commissioning such personal history projects. A wonderful gift that captures the essence of a life, its learnings and experiences!
In short, personal history is a wonderful gift that digitizes all legacy content, including handwritten letters, journals, photos and audio/video tapes. And hence making them shareable with the larger extended family and friends. These amazing memories have the power to cheer up our elders living alone and often depressed.