Families exist as microcosms of society, with their own individual histories, their own moments of joy and grief and their own sense of expression. While we may not always get along with our biological families, we all try to create our own little families in the world in an attempt to belong and connect to people at a deeper level. At the end of the day, family is just a term for a place where we feel like we belong.
In the context of the family and even history that is passed down from generation to generation, oral histories function as a way of memory and remembering the past. Whether it be a generational recipe that your grandmother told your mom, an interesting anecdote from your great-grandfather or just everyday millings of life from your dad’s childhood. These stories exist and are often lost with time, plagued by the human condition of forgetting.
In an attempt to immortalise these family tales and allow them their own space in the world is Samrata Salwan Diwan, the founder of Family Fables Co.— a bespoke publishing company that helps individuals, families, and institutions document their unique and personal stories.
Where Did It All Start
Talking about how the idea came along she says, “Family stories are the backbone of intergenerational communication. I grew up with my grandparents recounting some riveting stories about their lives - stories from their childhood, the ancestral home, friends and cousins and the forced migration that came with Partition. These stories gave me an insight into their struggles and triumphs, everything in between. It’s listening to these accounts that I found my passion for oral histories.”
“The tragedy is that many of these stories are lost with time. It’s important to connect with our roots and equally important to share these rich stories with younger generations. I didn’t want my family history to be lost or get fragmented so I started working on my passion project in 2017, which was my nani’s book” she adds further.
“With time my passion project evolved into Family Fables Co. I turned this passion project into a company as I wanted others to also have this opportunity to record their family stories. I couldn’t find any individual or company who would take on this task from start to finish and make it as smooth and hassle-free for the family. The company was incorporated in Feb 2018 and we have a registered trademark for the company name and logo.”
The Creative Process Behind Creating Family Books
Elaborating on the creative process behind the project, she says, “In an era where it seems that every life is on display on social media for the world to see, a whole generation is getting older and its stories, if not written or otherwise recorded, will be lost.”
She adds, “What makes a family history book by Family Fables special is the sheer experience of compiling it. Being interviewed by a personal historian takes the family or loved ones on a nostalgic journey, and opens the door to a flood of memories that provide valuable insight into a life well-lived. People find the experience cathartic, entertaining, nostalgic, and highly rewarding.”
Familial Histories That Need To Be Told
When asked if there were any family anecdotes that have stayed with her during the journey, Samrata shared two such stories.
Amminikutty and Kunjomachen: The Story that must be told (2021)
Set in the beautiful locale of Edathua in Kerala, this commemorative family history book captures an evocative collection of treasured memories and inspiring lessons that Thomas V Chirayil and Ammini Thomas passed on to their children and grandchildren.
The book has been put together with the recollections of their twelve children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The conversations we had with the family brought together many aspects to Thomas and Ammini’s lives, bridging the distance between younger and older generations.
Going far beyond the scope of mere ancestry, the book also captures delectable recipes from the local cuisine, thereby rendering the family’s history a deeper nuance.
Not only people, but institutions, buildings, heirlooms, and even recipes carry their own history! Each member is a special ingredient in the vibrant dish of their family. A book like Grandma’s Table, a cookbook containing treasured family recipes, home remedies, and kitchen wisdom of Mrs Rajinder Luthra, preserves culinary cultures, and honours a very tangible aspect of family history accumulated over generations with love and care. Her passion for cooking played an important role in her life. This cookbook has enlivened her family’s history through stories from her childhood, photographs, influences and inspirations on her cooking style and let all of them live their common past once again.
Find out more about Family Fables Co. here.
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