06/29/2006 05:59 PM | By Vinita
Bharadwaj, Staff writer
A large number of
old manuscripts need restoration in India. The Juma Al Majid Centre
has taken up the challenge.
Azzeddine BinZeghiba is extremely difficult to pin down. As the single point
contact for the Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage in India,
BinZeghiba is far too busy shuttling from city to city trying to locate and
identify manuscripts that are in desperate need of restoration.
focused their energies on India
- mainly Hyderabad - since 2003, the head of
studies and publication says the work is just beginning in India -
despite having restored more than 40,000 manuscripts. "We estimate there
are anywhere between 1 to 1.5 million manuscripts and books that need to be
restored. And this is only an estimate," he says.
already worked in this area with the centre in 20 countries, including Algeria, Syria,
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Morocco, BinZeghiba hesitatingly
guesses that their work will be completed in five years. "
Inshallah," he smiles.
mission began in Hyderabad
with the idea of the Centre for Restoration and Preservation, which he says
will be completed in six months. Hyderabad
was a natural choice for the Indian arm of the project to be headquartered by
virtue of its cultural diversity. "It's the place where Islamic, Indian
and European cultures converged. It is a centre for all cultures," he
project's aim is to seek and source manuscripts - Islamic and non-Islamic -
in all languages and ensure they are preserved and restored. The seeking is
done by research, asking people in the relevant fields, local governments,
libraries in universities and colleges and cultural centres. "Overall
the Indian governments [states] have been quite cooperative and
enthusiastic," BinZeghiba says fairly content with the response to the
Juma Al Majid initiative.
concedes that the problems or trying times begin only when it comes to
implementing the orders and directives from the governments. "There is
some resistance at the bureaucratic or administrative level. Mushkil hai
[It's hard]," he says laughing.
difficulty primarily arises out of bewilderment over a non-Indian's interest
in saving a part of culture that is not necessarily his own.
Juma Al Majid's passion and commitment to go beyond his own culture and
preserve books for the benefit of humanity at large is a message powerful
enough to move even the most rigid bureaucrat. "The attitude is changing
and they are understanding that the human heritage is important for mankind's
future," he says.
the manuscripts are restored they are returned to their respective sources.
"The technology and the techniques are from Dubai
but the employees are all from India," BinZeghiba says.
Having completed restoration works in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil
Nadu, his attention has now shifted to Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir and Gujarat. "Yes. And Bihar.
Yes, even the big bad state," he says with a smile.
manuscripts date from the 6th to 12th centuries on the Islamic calendar and
once they are restored, a digital archiving is also undertaken by the centre,
which is then added to their database.
the process evidently proving to be an elaborate and doubtless an expensive
one, BinZeghiba refuses to reveal the actual costs involved. "It's a
state secret," he laughs. "Anyway when there is a service to
humanity and when it involves books, it is priceless."