Once upon a time, there was a story. It understood what was happening around, by talking about it. It would always tell what happened and what did not. It liked sharing, and it loved being shared. It embraced anybody who paid heed to it. It travelled. It entertained. It educated. It proved a point. And when it did, it made news.
Keeping Stories Alive
Stories are essential to our culture. Listening to stories has been one of the most effective ways in understanding our roots. Thus, representation of history makes stories special. Then, how can an art form like storytelling itself become history. Yes, something like that happened with Dastangoi – the lost art of Urdu storytelling. The word ‘Dastangoi’ is formed when two Persian words - Dastan (epic tale) and Goi (telling/reciting) are clubbed. When the last famous Dastango (the artist who recites these tales), Mir Baqir Ali, passed away in 1928. With him, dastans and the art of telling them faded to oblivion.
But, there was someone who believed that stories cannot die. They are meant to be kept alive by telling them, and retelling them. In 2004, Mahmood Farooqui (author, historian, filmmaker and Dastango) revisited these medieval tales to find that Dastangoi was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Since then, he has travelled with Danish Husain across the world to delight audiences with stories performed in a distinctly enchanting style.
Dastangoi: From Alive to Lively
Over the last two years, the duo has conducted workshops to build a team of dastangos, taking the revival to the next level. A recent milestone in this journey was the launch of Dastangoi- the book, which is a collection of stories that have been performed in the Dastangoi style. Among the most fantastic stories ever told, many of these derive from the Tilism-e Hoshruba, the most important chapter of the oral and printed narrative tradition of the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza. The book is an attempt to increase the reach of the stories and will also act as a manual for those who want to learn the art of Dastangoi.
This story does not know borders. It is the native of narrative. It lives in our memories. It was brought up by our ancestors, and it is bringing us up. A story has found its way to life. But, what about life? Has it found its way to a story? We need to tell our stories, and listen to those of others. Stories help us survive through conflicts. They understand our problems, and convince others about these issues. Don’t let these issues die. Don’t let these problems get lost. Give them a story, because somebody would find it and make it his own. What’s your story?