Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”.

First Lines from L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between

It is a hot and humid day, when the scorching earth forbids us from exploring rooftops or running wild in the streets below. With the afternoon ritual of cooking and eating complete, all children are cleverly handed over to the words of the storyteller.

Spinning yarns and creating visuals perpetuated with his baritone voice, the storyteller himself transforms, like the characters in his tales. Never ordinary beings, but an amalgamation of different emotions.

With long unending summer afternoons upon us, he kept the dirty dozen occupied with this tale that never ended. Day after day, we traveled on those magical words with giant characters that rose from the earth, heroes that prevailed over every challenge and his nemesis who was to return.

The adventures never stopped.

I was taken back into these memories and sessions of storytelling by a Dastango, a storyteller.

Dastangoi, an ancient art of storytelling, supported tremendously by emperor Akbar, popular in the afeem or opium houses of the day, was a dying art. But in the not so recent past with the efforts of Shamsur Rehman Farooqi, and the work done by Mahmood Farooqui and his contemporaries and shagirds (disciples), this art form is coming back to us.

dastan1

Dastangoi is getting revived in small mehfils and gatherings, while also being celebrated inside auditoriums and at street performances, used as a medium of powerful poetic expression.

Why do we need libraries, or save the monuments? Why do we need to conserve the old? The debate on preservation and celebration of all things bygone is never ending.

But when I listen to the Dastango, I felt a voice from a distant past asking me to believe in the process, be patient and let destiny take its course.

In the tradition of Dastangoi hearing the words of Kabir was a treat!

Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sab Kuch Hoye,
 Mali Seenche So Ghara, Ritu Aaye Phal Hoye.
Slowly, slowly, O mind, everything happens at its own pace,
The gardener may water with a hundred pots of water, but the fruit only arrives in its season.

Kabir

This week’s poem is dedicated to stories, storytellers, and the eternity of words; for the message they carry across time, space and mind.

The master craftsman of words, Gulzar through this poem shares his belief that when all is destroyed, the earth lying dormant, the sun gone cold, and when the sepia light of doom surrounds us, a poem might fall on the surface of the sun and ignite it once more.

Kainaat By Gulzar

Transliteration

Bas chand croreon saalon main
Suraj ki aag bujhegi jab
Aur raakh udegi suraj se
jab koi chaand na dubega
Aur koi zameen na ubhregi
Tab thanda bhujha ek koyle sa
Tukdha ye zamen ka ghumega
bhatka-bhatka
Madham khakistree roshni main!

Mein sochta hu us waqt agar
Kagaz pe liqhi ek nazm kahi udte udte
Suraj mein gire
Toh suraj phir se jalne lage!

Translation by Pavan Verma

In a billion years, when
The sun’s fire dwindles
And ash blows across its surface
When the moon will no longer wane
And the land not rise
When like a cold, burnt-out piece of coal
This earth revolves, lost in its gyre,
Trailing a dying sepia glow

I think then
If a poem written on a piece of paper
Was to waft along
And perchance land on the sun
The sun would ignite again!

Some links and videos if you would like to explore Dastangoi.

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