To begin defining what the sense of place of Chinsurah was, what makes it special, we needed to find the pulse, search its soul. A herculean task in itself, this project has aimed at collecting a general overview of the stories and narratives of what the community holds about the Dutch in Chinsurah. This archive is a short compilation of the series of interviews, experiences of various citizens of the town about their everyday life in a historic city, their families, their communities and history.
Although not strictly an oral history project, the methodology for this archive was loosely build around the oral history archiving. The focus of this project was to record the narratives of the community and their associations with the Dutch in Chinsurah. Given that the Dutch had left Chinsurah in 1840, it was already established impossible to record first- hand accounts of the Dutch and therefore it was decided that this section was focussing on the folklore and narratives that they relate with the Dutch in Chinsurah. The primary task was to develop a questionnaire and then film the interviews of the people from the community who came forward to share their experiences, an exercise that was established over two months. The videos were entirely shot in Chinsurah in the months of April-June 2014.
Presented on the website in the form of four concise videos this is just a beginning, a way forward to a gamut of possibilities in recording the memories of the people of Chinsurah. The first video is member of the Seal family, one of the most illustrious and richest merchant families of Chinsurah, who speaks about their family history and trade at the time of the Dutch. The second video is of the priest of the Sandeshwartala Temple, the most important Hindu shrine of the region where a 10 day gajan festival is held at the Bengali new year, the priest talks about the folklore and the connection of the Dutch Governor Daniel Overbeck and his gift to the temple. The third video is shot at the Hooghly Mohsin College, one of the few surviving Dutch buildings in Chinsurah. This includes an interview of the History teacher as well as the students and their knowledge about the Dutch in Chinsurah. A local history enthusiast speaks about his knowledge of the history of the Chinsurah and its Dutch connection.