Eighteen year old Mansi Jain has been brainstorming for the past two years to create digital content about all the monuments in and around Delhi-NCR region. With an aim to create an academic and cultural interest in the subject, Jain with the help of Ramit Mitra (founder, Delhi by Foot – which conducts heritage walks in the city) has launched an interactive website called, ‘Heritage Hike’.
The website includes videos which offer simple and interesting explanation about monuments and various historical events.
In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Jain, who recently got accepted at Stanford University, talks about her interest in history, hiring interns for Heritage Hike, and expansion plans of her venture. Excerpts from the interview:
Nishtha: When did your fascination with historical monuments begin?
Mansi Jain: As my parents were always interested in history, I was exposed to monuments and museums from an early age. We even travelled around the world where we visited places of historical significance. I was inspired to start Heritage Hike when I visited Italy with my family, about two years back. We went to this bell tower town called, San Gimignano in Tuscany and I was surprised to see that it was so well preserved! This town has a population of about 20,000 people and they get roughly 1.5 million visitors every year. The people in Tuscany took care of the sanitation aspect and were well aware about their town’s historical past. However in India, there is no ownership of monuments among people. They scribble over the walls of the monuments and some of them still remain unaware about our heritage. These two distinct examples (of Tuscany and India) motivated me to work on historical monuments in India.
N: So, what is the current status of your website?
MJ: We have already developed our website (www.heritagehike.com). Information about Tughlaq Dynasty has already been uploaded on it. We have about five videos, out of which three are on the emperors from this dynasty. We also did video walkthroughs at Feroz Shah Kotla and Tughlakabad. These videos were also shown to school students and it was pretty effective. There was one student who had no interest in history, but once she visited Tughlakabad, she was able to understand everything about the monument because of the video. We hope to produce five videos every month.
N: You are also in the process of hiring a couple of interns to help you with Heritage Hike. How do you plan to train them?
MJ: Since I will be going to Stanford University for my graduation, I felt the website would require more people. We are setting up a three month internship so that the interns could work with us properly. In this formal setup, the interns will be given a document stating their work hours and what they are expected to do. We will be giving them certificates and personalized letters of recommendations.
For the two posts – managing the enterprise and marketing and communications, we have received surplus applications so we will be conducting interviews. We are hoping to start the internship by June 13 until the mid of September. We require about 16 interns. Few days back, students from Kolkata approached and showed volunteer interest in Heritage Hike.
Apart from the internship, we are also looking for project heads – who can help with the training of the new deputy project heads. I will continue to supervise the entire process and work towards the creative output of the project.
N: You have created your website in sync with the history syllabus taught in schools. Do you think inclusion of interactive aids will be beneficial for students?
MJ: Yes, it will definitely help. When we conducted surveys with school students, they didn’t remember anything from their history textbooks. Since this is a theoretical subject with a lot of dates and factual information, students tend to forget what they have learnt. Interactive medium would be fun and interesting for the students and they will enjoy the subject more.
N: Do you plan to pitch your website and videos as a teaching tool in schools?
MJ: Yes. We have asked for three interns in the outreach director field. Since the Tughlaq Dynasty is relevant for class 7 students, we want to approach school principals. An hour long presentation would be beneficial as we will be able to gauge students’ responses. Students will also be given a recap worksheet to fill. So we hope to be in a couple of schools in the next three months. Even the students in Calcutta were interested in taking this project to their schools. Our goal is also to create an online library which can be used by the teachers in classes.
N: Since you have long terms plans for Heritage Hike, do you plan to seek funding for this venture?
MJ: I realized last year that to sustain a project it is important to have finances in place. In the past, we got student volunteers for the website but once they received the exposure they wanted, their interest dwindled. If we have finances, stipends can be provided to the interns as an incentive to keep them going. Funding will also help us in scaling the level of production. But, before looking for the funds, I want to plan and set up the entire working system.
N: What are the expansion plans for Heritage Hike? Do you plan to take this initiative to other parts of the country?
MJ: Currently, my focus is on Delhi and the dynasties, sultanates and monuments around it.
We want to expand our videos beyond the syllabus. The history books are limited to Delhi sultanate, the Mughals and monuments in the British era. History has been restricted to power structure – who ruled and what they did during the rule and so on. We want to make videos about history of a mathematical theorem or a particular native dialect or about something else about which people are not aware of. I want to expand the definition of ‘history’.
The other form of expansion would be to different cities and finding students to cover monuments in their areas.
A continued focus on education about history and awareness of the monuments will always be Heritage Hike’s aim.