Published by The Advocacy Committee of the
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Storytelling Returns to Delhi's Streets

BBC News (Delhi, India) , April 2, 2011


In one of Delhi's oldest Muslim neighbourhoods, I found myself in a quiet, open courtyard. People huddled around coal braziers, the red glow illuminating faces young, old, wealthy and poor.

I saw Hindu women with bindis on their foreheads as well as reedy Muslim scholars in prayer caps.

Up front, by a floodlit marble tomb with elegant, onion-shaped arches, sat two men on a stage, dressed entirely in white.

They were storytellers, like the raconteurs of the old bazaars. And they were relating a fantastic tale about an army trying to conquer an enchanted land called Hoshruba.

The storytellers, Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain, seek to draw people away from flat-screen TVs and gaming devices, back to the intimate cocoon of their own imaginations.

"We live in such a visual culture, that oral storytelling is actually a novelty again," Mahmood Farooqui told me later.

"We liberate the audiences. We allow them to form their own imagery. And by not changing the language to make it totally accessible, we actually create a sense of longing for it."

Even more extraordinary, Mahmood Farooqui is reviving the storytellers' role as oral historians.

As the tale of Hoshruba drew to a close, he began to recount some of the most painful stories from India's recent past - from partition.

In a society rushing headlong towards the future, the storytellers' quest is to remind us to make time to listen and remember. As well as to pass on our heritage - our stories.

Subjects Covered: education, personal storytelling

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