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Project Dastaan uses VR to reconnect refugees of the 1947 partition

Project Dastaan exhibition

Aiming for funding via Kickstarter, Project Dastaan is a VR-related project that reconnects survivors of the 1947 partition to their past communities, while using VR as a storytelling tool.

The project is backed by Oxford University, Malala Yousafzai, Gabo Arora, William Dalrymple, and Aanchal Malhotra. The team were recently accepted to the Kaleidoscope accelerator, and are looking to expand the project further. The project can be supported here.

Project Dastaan
Photo credit: Project Dastaan.


A year ago, Sparsh and Ameena sat down over a coffee and exchanged their grandparents’ stories of Partition. Sparsh’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old at the time of Partition. He lived in a village called Bela, and eventually moved to Delhi, India after living in many refugee camps and escaping mass-scale communal violence. Ameena’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, migrated an almost identical journeys in the opposite direction from Hoshiarpur to Lahore. Both their grandparents yearned to go back home. But due to wars, old age and trauma there were still too many barriers for either to return. 73 years on, India and Pakistan still do not operate a tourist agreement.They realised that even if their grandparents couldn’t go physically, they could still take them back using Virtual Reality.

Sam and Saadia came on board a few days later and the four friends together built Dastaan from a small student project to a larger peace-building venture. Both had personal connections to partition: Saadia had grown up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather cannot forget the violence he saw as a young man. Sam’s grandfather, meanwhile, had been a British officer in India during the war and the twilight years of the Raj. So scarred was he by partition that he never visited Sam’s family in Delhi, after 30 years of them living there.

Projact Dastaan team


The project notes that they wish to build towards three values: awareness and empathy; cultural preservation; and peacebuilding. On all three, I can see how the project can be a great success.

A few VR projects come into my inbox from time to time, all with great ideas. In this case, Project Dastaan has the groundwork for a potentially great experience, with the backing of some talented team members. Erfan Saadati is one name I trust, after his great work working in Surround Vision some time ago.

From the information given, the team looks like they will give the topic the care and dedication needed to make two great pieces to show. I wish them all the best for the future, and will follow them closely.