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Restoring The Past: Daastaan-e-Dilli

Updated: May 9, 2021

LedBy interviewed Alishah Ali, an alum, who is currently working as a Project Assistant for museum project "Daastaan-e-Dilli" with Kishwar Desai, Chair (The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust).


Q. Could you tell us about the project "Daastaan-e-Dilli"?

A. After concluding my training in 'Conservation of Cultural Property' from NRLC Lucknow, I returned to Delhi and applied to the Partition Museum where I had interned before. I love working there because the partition museum itself is relatively new. They're trying to do a lot of new things, which includes a lot of experimenting. I'm working with them as a Project Assistant. Previously, they just had one partition museum in Amritsar. Now they're starting a new museum in Delhi that will be at the Ambedkar University campus. The best part is it's in old Delhi where I live. It will be in the haveli (the mansion) of Dara Shikoh (the son of Shahjahan), the founder of this part of Delhi.



Q. What is the main focus of the project?

A. It will be a partition museum focusing on the partition in Delhi and what happened with the people of Delhi, and how the city was during division because it was the center back then also. There will be three museum infrastructures; one is the partition in Delhi, the other Dara Shikoh, and the last will be a reading session where people can come in and read about history.


I'm also working with Kishwar Desai, Chair (The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust) and Serena Chopda, a well-established photographer. We will be working to establish an exhibition on the partition survivors of old Delhi which is the part of project "Daastan-e-Dilli".



Q. How was your journey with LedBy and what role has LedBy played in helping you reach where you are today?

A. The best part of my 2020 was LedBy. I was at a juncture when I was finishing my post-graduation. And then I was like, what next? And LedBy came in. I was applying to different places, and I always had the security that I have LedBy. I have people at LedBy who will be there to guide me if I ever fall back. Secondly, talking about LedBy mentors, I am still in touch with is Dr. Farah Usmani. She gave me the opportunity to be a 'Research Analyst' for her project "Rising Beyond the Ceiling" which helped me to build my network. She also keeps me updated about work opportunities.



Q. When you applied to LedBy Fellowship, was it a complicated process?

A. Last year, during Ramadan, I randomly peeped into my younger sister's room and asked her what was she doing? She showed me the WhatsApp message of the Fellowship, and then I thought if I should apply or not. I got to the first round. I was not sure as I've never had Muslim friends in my life. The kind of Muslim people introduced to me were not like-minded people as there was always some conflict.


Then I was like, this is going to my first Muslim thing. After my interview with Dr. Ruha Shadab, I was full of confidence. I always wanted to do something for women in old Delhi and change the mindset people had about college education. I would love to mention that one of the things in our fellowship was that people were supposed to do a one-on-one with all Fellows. And I think that is the most crucial aspect of the whole Fellowship because initially if that was not a compulsion, I don't believe all of us would have talked to each other. But because of that, we talk to each other, and we found different topics to connect.


One more thing. I want to add in the kind of where we are living today. Everything is interdisciplinary; nothing exists without networking. We had fellows from different backgrounds. In the future, we all might collaborate on a project and support each other.



Q. When you look back at your younger self, what are the top three things you would tell her?

A. I would tell her something that I already did:

a) Live by your gut feeling; go by your feels.

b) Never compromise on what your brain says, but only follow your heart, which I always did.

c) And thirdly, there's a lot to learn. One suggestion that I would give to my younger self is don't make conclusions too early. There's a lot to explore.





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