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First person accounts in Remember Bhopal Museum

bhopal museumBHOPAL: On both sides of every photograph is placed an audio instrument like a telephone and as you pick up the instrument, narration of story that went into making of that picture begins: “First, we shifted the dead bodies, placed them in a line and numbered them.

“Now, the dead bodies wouldn’t be recognised by their names, they will just be identified by their number. Then we called upon the final year medical students, allotted dead bodies to each.”

This harrowing first person account could be heard in the audio instrument placed by the side of DK Satpathy, forensic expert’s photo in his own voice.

This is perhaps India’s first museum commemorating a contemporary social movement and would be inaugurated on Tuesday.

The ‘Remember Bhopal Museum’ is collectively curated by the community of survivors and activists fighting against corporate crimes across the world.
It is also the first museum in India that relies predominantly on the oral history testimonials of survivors.

Museum curator Rama Lakshmi says the museum carries the message of the movement and it does not use any toxic material or products manufactured in hazardous factories and it does not accept money from either the government or large corporate houses.

“It took around four years for this project to take this shape. Earlier, it was planned as a Bus Museum that would travel across India with a message against corporate crime,” said project coordinator Shalini Sharma.

“It was a challenge to build this museum without using any flex or chemicals,” said Vivek Seth, designer of the museum.

Remembering Bhopal

Before the Bhopal gas tragedy, not much was known about the historical city outside the country.

However, the 1984 disaster changed it all, as the incident – and along with it the city – made headlines the world over.

A lot was written in the aftermath of the gas leak, and it still remains the subject for several writers and filmmakers.

While some books like Dominique Lapierre and Janier Moro’s ‘5 Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of World’s Deadliest Industrial Disaster’ went beyond the bookshelves and made a place in our hearts, there are several others based on the tragedy that found little mention.

Several books have also been authored by writers based in Bhopal.

The latest offering is a ‘faction’ (fact+fiction) by paediatrician Dr Pradeep Kapoor.

Titled ‘A tale of two nights’, the book revolves around two incidents that changed the fate of Bhopal – the gas tragedy and the riots in the wake of the Babri mosque demolition in 1992.

Talking about his book, Kapoor says, “I was posted at the gas relief department and worked vehemently on documentation, categorisation etc of the relief victims. I was appalled to see youngsters without eyesight as their cornea had been badly damaged by the incident. All these made me weave a story around the tragedy.”

Another writer Swati Tiwari penned the poignant tale of the dreadful night. Born in Dhar, Tiwari is a known name in the field of development writing in Bhopal. She penned down her thoughts about the tragedy in her book ‘The Let Down’ or ‘Sawal Aaj Bhi Zinda Hain’.

The book is based on interviews and interactions with dozens of ‘gas-affected persons’ and describes the situation as it was in 2010-2011.

“Happenings going around me inspire me to write. I was moved with whatever had happened,” she says.

“A number of affected people still suffer from psychiatric diseases. Anxiety was the worst impact of the gas. Dead people still appear in their dreams.”

When authors spoke of the tragedy through their books, how could moviemakers lag behind!

Several stories have been built around the tragedy and presented in form of films and documentaries. Some of the most popular and powerful flicks made on the sensitive issue include Bhopali, a documentary directed by Van Maximilian Carlson, based on the aftermath of the event twenty-five years later; A Prayer for Rain, directed by Ravi Kumar; and Bhopal Express. – From the Hindustan Times

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