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The Memory Keepers

In the age of Facebook albums, Tasneem Nashrulla finds that the age-old art of scrapbooking still survives.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2009 23:10 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla

What would an 18-year-old girl want for her birthday? A cell phone or laptop? Or clothes, shoes, jewellery, perhaps? None of the above if you’re talking about Mansi Shetty. The teenager, who turned 18 last year, says her favourite gift came from her mother and it was a scrapbook that traced the 18 years of her life through photographs.

Scrapbooking, the practice of preserving personal history in the form of photographs and memorabilia in a decorated scrapbook, which started in 15th century England, is today a dying art thanks to Facebook photo albums and e-cards. But one studio in Colaba is trying to revive the movement. Kreating Keepsakes, started by Kaya Shewakramani, helps people preserve their memories the old-fashioned way.

Shewakramani started scrapbooking to minimise the piles of photo albums in her cupboard. She also loved the three-dimensional appeal of the scrapbook. “It transports you back in time and helps you relive your memories, unlike online photographs where the focus is on your mouse,” she says.

At the Kreating Keepsakes studio, she helps people customise photo albums and create innovative wall collages and memory journals. “It is time-consuming,” admits Shewakramani. “But it’s a beautiful gift for someone close.”

Shetty could not agree more. “I would have picked my scrapbook over all materialistic gifts,” declares the law student, whose mother, Priti, roped in Kreating Keepsakes to help her create an 18-page scrapbook with captioned photos of events like the first time Mansi crawled, her graduation day and mundan (head shaving) ceremony.

There were also pictures of her family, the doctor who delivered her, messages from her grandparents, the meaning of her name and the names of all her teachers from kindergarten to college. Says Priti, “We are not as computer-savvy as our children. I wanted to show my love for Mansi in my own way.” Like all collegians, Shetty uploads her pictures on Facebook but she values her scrapbook because “it’s more personal.” “A hard disk can crash, but a scrapbook can never crash,” she smiles.

Gift storeowner Kanchan Khubchandani, too, believes that the charm of photographs is lost in ordinary albums. Which is why she has always been passionate about the art of scrapbooking. What helps is her habit of “collecting everything” like the tickets from the first movie she and her husband went for, and the nametags from the hospital where her sons were born. For their tenth wedding anniversary, she gifted her husband a framed collage that showcased the couple’s most treasured memories in every year.

Along with their photographs, the collage has the hotel’s room key from their honeymoon, the card her husband gave her when she was pregnant and bills from their romantic dinner dates. “It’s so much fun going through these mementos. We were amazed at how cheap restaurants were 10 years ago,” she laughs.

One of her son’s first pair of jeans, socks and denim jacket have been framed and embellished. Her elder son Viir (8) shares his mother’s enthusiasm for scrapbooking and fills his journal daily with souvenirs from his school. “Using journals and scrapbooks makes memories more tactile,” says Khubchandani.

Prachi Jain would agree. This creative director of a marketing agency can literally watch her memories go by in every month of 2009. On her 29th birthday in December last year, her sister and brother-in-law gifted her a desktop calendar printed with photographs from her teenage years to her early twenties. Since it was her first birthday after marriage, the gift felt even more special. “They sourced photographs of my family, my hen party and my college life, many of which I had never even seen”, says Jain.

She was especially touched by the time and effort her sister and brother-in-law put in to create the calendar. “Even after the electricity went off, as it does frequently in Delhi, they worked on it in candlelight,” she says. “It’s one of those gifts I’ll never throw away.” So, even after 2009 comes to an end, the calendar will remain timeless for Jain. Understandably so.