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Sargam Mehra

Sargam Mehra

Sargam Mehra

People gave excellent reviews about your workshop, what are your views about the audience and about being a part of VoW school outreach?

A big thanks for the encouraging reviews! It was a memorable experience to be a part of an enthusiastic bunch of students who were interactive and fun to be with. The crowd was inquisitive and that’s the kind of audience that keeps you on your toes and motivates you to put your best foot forward. The VoW outreach program is a wonderful platform and it is very rare that literature festivals reach schools at such a level. VoW is doing a great job by reaching the real agents of change- the students.

What inspired you to carve a career in history?

My grandfather had a Masters degree in history from the Government College, Lahore and regaled me with stories from the past. These tales caught my fantasy. Also I remember being very engrossed in ancient Indian history as an 11-year-old where I was surprised to read that fully functioning empires and trade routes existed in the absence of digital or even print technology. Walking and people to people contact was the most powerful means. Newer stories kept greeting me and a career in history is what followed naturally. I have now combined it with Communication Studies that has given me a wider perspective. Also, my parents always encouraged me to chase my interests. Interest grew and career followed.

If you had to write the best and the worst thing about Dehra Dun, what would it be?

The best and worst thing about Dehra Dun are both the same- we the people. As Doonites, we are helpful, love being outdoors and welcome visitors very warmly. But at the same time, we are failing to segregate our waste, educate our children about environment and we are aspiring for development that does not suit our ecology. But of course, we have the potential to do all this and make our city a better place. So, we, the residents of Dehra, are by all means the best and the worst thing about Doon.

What do you think about today’s modernization in terms of inclination towards history? Are they more inclined towards knowing about our history or not?

The best thing about this era is the technology available now. History has always been and will always be there. It was always recorded, albeit through oral means, and will continue to be recorded. From the oral to the digital, we have a come a long way. But our interest in history has not changed. In fact, both these technologies now co-exist. What is changing perhaps is a greater sensitivity towards history as one of the pillars of academia. We now have a lot of people all over the world doing historical research at micro level and bringing our stories from regions neglected so far. Though, Indian parents still need to understand that social sciences are as rewarding as the sciences and management degrees! It is purely the interest of your child that matters and nothing else.

Tell us more about Been There Doon That, and when do you think an initiative like BTDT deemed successful?

Been There Doon That or BTDT is now 4 years old. It is essentially a set of crazy people out every Sunday morning reclaiming our walking spaces and raising awareness about our heritage. We started with 10 walks and 1000 members 4 years ago and today we have 50 walks and 60,000 members! These walks are free and open to all. On a recent trip to Delhi, we were advised by someone to attend BTDT walks the moment we reach Doon. He, of course, did not know that we were BTDT and he was recommending our own walks to us! Also, several students bump into me during their tuition hours and confess how they have begun to check people vandalizing monuments and have stopped the use of plastic bottles on their trips and treks, thanks to our walks. It is small gestures like these that make us realise that we have been successful. But I dont like to use the word success too much and I must confess that this is a long and continuous journey for our beloved Dehra.

Lastly, what are the pros and cons of an interesting field like history?

History is an absolute gem of a subject where you gain a complete command and understanding of your past, present and even future. It is like an injection of knowledge! So many hidden stories, hidden heritage sites, fascinating characters, food, ghosts, folklore, myths, communities…it’s unending. I strongly feel that a child, if her interest permits, must be encouraged to take up a career in History. Oh and there is only one con. As a history person, you will still always be asked by some of your relatives -‘Why history??!!’ As long as you can answer that, life is sorted.

About the Interviewee:

Sargam Mehra pursued her history honours from Lady Sri Ram College Delhi University, followed by Masters in History from Indira Gandhi Open University, Delhi. She then worked as a Journalist with University. She also has a Masters degree in Communication from Doon University, where she worked as an Assistant Professor in communications. At present she is a doctoral research fellow at Doon University and the co-founder of 'Been There, Doon That' a city based group that does weekly heritage walks and heritage awareness programmes. The initiative is now more than 4 years old.