Express News Service
“Working on Gandhiji’s life is like riding a tiger. You gotta keep riding. You can’t just wrap up the stories of legends,” says Birad Rajaram Yajnik who is now on #MissionGandhi. This Hyderabad-based curator of global digital museums is now laying the groundwork for the next Gandhi museum in Almaty (Nur-Sultan) city in Kazakhstan.
His proficiency in technology and his love for the Mahatma made him take up this project. “Many people often ask me why Gandhi (in my museums)? A chapter about Bapu in school lighted the spark. Watching my grand aunt spin the charkha for an hour every day in my growing up years upped my fascination for all things Bapu. Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi sealed the desire to spread the word about him in every platform,” says the author with roots in Gujarat. Yajnik also heads a digital interactive company Visual Quest India, which provides services to several Fortune 50 companies.
Yajnik’s interaction with Dr Mir Nasir Ali Khan, the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, earlier this year in Hyderabad paved the way for the project. He asked Yajnik to create something about the Mahatma in Kazakhstan. “I said, ‘why not,’ and started the groundwork”, he said. Incidentally, Almaty, where the museum is coming up, houses the Gandhi Park in Aimanov Street.
Yajnik created the first Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum in Hyderabad in 2012 at Bapu Ghat. Seven years later, he created a life-sized hologram of the Mahatma at UNESCO Paris 2019. The event was organised by UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) in co-operation with the Permanent Delegation of India at the UNESCO headquarters.
The digital museum (similar to those in Hyderabad and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa) will feature a bilingual photobiography of Bapu. It may take about 12 months for the museum to get operational. There will be digital elements such as a film on Gandhi, an interactive quiz and other such interesting digital elements that will bring him alive on the 65-inch digital screen, he says. For those who love reading maps, there are maps of the journeys he undertook in his life too.
There is an interesting backstory about why he decided to create these digital museums, spending time and money. “I wrote MKG – Photo Biography of Mahatma Gandhi, a limited edition large-format book and we printed only 1,869 copies (his year of birth) in 2010. This collector’s edition has been bought by global celebrities such as former US President Barack Obama, Mandela Foundation, Richard Attenborough Foundation. For `32,000 per copy, the book was sent to the readers in a pinewood box with a stainless steel plate wrapped in a silk cloth. “We sold many copies and we wanted to do something for him again with that money. Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of the Mahatma, was also convinced that a student edition about Bapu followed by a digital museum on him seemed like a sustainable, modern idea,” he adds.
Yajnik has always been a pioneer in blending technology with history. In 2018, he and his team of 20 techies created a double-bust talking Gandhi which was installed at the Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa. They used advancing imaging technology, black and white photos using photogrammetry software and a physical bronze bust to create this iconic project, he shares.
Having read Gandhi extensively, any piece of advice on essential reading about Bapu? “Don’t read his Experiments with Truth in one go. It has to be read, pondered upon and re-read to understand the deep wisdom Bapu has imparted in this iconic book. Also, read his life when he was your age. This helps you understand that one can be a changemaker at any stage of one’s life. Age, like page, is just a number. His life amply proves this,” concludes Yajnik.
Digital Exhibitions, Museums & Installations curated
• King Gandhi Interactive Wall, Washington DC, USA
• Mandela Gandhi Digital Exhibition, Johannesburg & Cape Town
• Pha Bapu Digital Exhibition, Bangkok & Hua Hin, Thailand
• Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum, Hyderabad, India
• Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
• Mahatma Gandhi Ek Pravasi, Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra, New Delhi
• Karyanjali – 100 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran
• Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram – 100 years exhibition