The art of storytelling (a repost)

Stories are no less living than the ones who tell them. I say “tell” because in the days that I am writing about in this post, people mostly told stories. Writing was considered as killing the essence, the free spirit that defined the beauty of a tale. This spirit dictates how it panes out, how it varies with a new teller, even with the same person every time it gets narrated, the place, crowd and such circumstances in which it is reenacted.

I came across a reference to the lost art of Urdu storytelling called dastangoi. What piqued my interest is the fact that Urdu is famous for the inimitable poetry ever written or ever will be. Dastangoi is a Persian word, dastan meaning tale and with suffix goi it translates to “tell a tale”.

A dastan, like an epic has elements of adventure, bravery, beauty, romance, magic, treachery to name a few, but the plots are linear and usually predictable. The beauty of a tale is not in its outset, the events that follow or the conclusion, but in the imagery. For instance, illustrations of a war scene may involve how the hero makes entrance, the colour of the sky and the war-torn soil, the sounds of the running horses, clash of shining swords and the smell of spilt blood infusing a wave of bravado in the most disinterested soldier. No other language fits this requirement more than Urdu, which with its poetic inclinations allow the storyteller to embellish a trivial event, or say, to romanticize the look exchanged between the protagonists for hours. The language and astute usage of the rich words enables the teller to weave a mesmerizing maze that you won’t want to escape.

The history of dastangoi is as interesting as the art itself. Though many readers will question its authenticity, the great Urdu poets always looked at history with disdain. They wanted stories to continue evolving, with every new generation adding more illustrious sub plots, new ways of gilding the oft cited with mellifluous Urdu harf.
In a way, the great tales are no different from life itself, it’s a pity that we think it’s the same tale that is being narrated over ages whereas life is beyond our control and we just need to bear with it as it unfolds.

Further reading:


22 thoughts on “The art of storytelling (a repost)

  1. Karthik says:

    Old stories get mundane and a new story definitely brings more interest even if the message is same. And as ever story telling is about making the scene come alive with minor details which make one experience it partially if not full. BTW you have good expertise in highlighting the minute details which seem worthless but play much important role in creating a scene and otherwise ignored feel of the situation.
    Story telling was in fashion and will remain in fashion as its an interesting medium for the teller and receiver both.
    So keep going some…..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ambikabhardwaj says:

    This year, sometime in summer I was attending the Delhi Literature fest. This amazing person, who is a carrier of the Dastangoi tradition, narrated such beautiful tales of Kabir! It’s absolutely to fall in love with!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard this ‘story’ for the first time and I must say, you are such a mesmerising storyteller, weaving words with delicate passion, that aren’t overarching but envelope the reader in a verbal blanket, full of warm, rich words! For some reason it made me think of my grandfather’s recitation of old poem-form tales from the Mahabharata, ballads of old Kings and legendary figures, Julius Caesar speeches… Anyway, I don’t want to get swayed from the point I’m making here, which is, this is an absolutely gorgeous piece of writing! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, though one might say audiobooks are getting popular, they however are a league of their own and not even the youtube videos can replace the old world charm of staged storytelling.
      Thanks for stopping by.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s