A strong impulse of caution passes through my body, my hands stay barely still and I try to dowse the adrenaline that is slowly seeping into every corner of my thought. Now this all may sound way over the top but you have to be there to believe it. I mean, how often do you get to hold something in your hands that is about 170 years old? And it gets even more beautiful if you break it down further, so 170 years is basically 2040 months or 62050 days old, a timespan in which two lifetimes can be easily squeezed in between and you would still have enough space for a newborn to touch puberty. And that, I held in my hand.
Well, If enormity is carefully scrutinized, thought upon, I assure you, it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever find.
So, my search for textures took me to the Delhi Archives, which now as I write down seems quite natural, I mean which other place would be so well suited for my context, however, I wonder what took me so long to go there.
Anyway, on the third floor of the archives you have the main storage room.(I’m cutting directly to the storage room because the architecture of the archive deserves a separate blog on itself). White tiled flooring, air ducts peep out of every corner of the ceiling, two wooden desks burdened with plethora of files and a desktop that mostly likely runs on windows 98, temperature controlled between 18 to 22 degree Celsius and well of course, the aisles are formed by rows and rows of track moveable metallic shelves and inside them you have the history of Delhi preserved.
If you think my description isn’t on point then I have the perfect thing for you, the archive room was basically like a morgue, it did give off that vibe. And come to think of it, the function of archive room is actually similar to a morgue. You see, morgues store dead bodies while archives store old and archaic documents, the sole purpose of these two spaces is to preserve things in the best way possible for future research and reference. Yet, before you question, these two spaces are not museums and that’s because they are not built with the purpose of aesthetics and display. There’s a slight but huge difference.
Well, you can differ with me on that, I love to romanticize, but just to set the mood I gave you that description. And as you go ahead with the blog, imagine the archive room as a morgue for pages, it will make it more interesting.
However, once inside, I was given access to municipal documents of the Delhi government from the year 1836 to 1941. The documents were neatly stored inside acid free archival paper, sandwiched between two handmade sheets and then immaculately put together in a file. Some of the documents were notarized bonds, some were letters to the Delhi commissioner and some were a documentation of certain legal proceedings. I couldn’t help but stare at them indefinitely, looking at their intricacy. Time, was obviously quite visible on them, sometimes as yellow and brown tints while sometimes as acid patches and sometimes as fragmentation of the edges. The documents were an art piece in themselves, at least for me they seemed to fit whatever definition of ‘art’, that I have in my head.
Write-up and photography by Aadit Basu
The images were taken from The Delhi Archive, Satsang Vihar.