A glimpse of Mahatma Gandhi’s life through the art of Dastangoi
The age-old art of Urdu storytelling, Dastangoi, brought alive some incidents from the life of Mahatma Gandhi at the Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts in the national Capital on Wednesday evening.
At the centre of the event titled ‘Dastan-e-Mahatma’ was dastango (story teller) Syed Sahil Agha seated on a white mattress, the colour matching his traditional kurta pyjama. With majestic voice and powerful story of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as his only weapons, Agha took the audience back in time while recalling some of the significant events of country’s freedom movement.
“The frail looking man was once thrown off a train in South Africa when he sat in first-class compartment meant for the whites. This was the beginning of a journey that led him to lead a nation to freedom,” said Agha, a Delhi-based dastango, who is in the profession for 10 years, recalling the 1893 incident at South Africa’s Pietermaritzburg railway station.
The show, followed by a drama, was organised by Delhi government’s Urdu Academy to commemorate 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Without any music or audio, the storyteller regaled the audience through a mix of emotions. There was little laughter, sighs and screeches, as he used modulations to express the various aspects of Indian freedom movement chronicling event after event.
“I had never heard Gandhi’s life in this format. This is refreshing,” said Chandan Mishra, a history student from Delhi University.
The 13th century Urdu oral story telling art form, Dastangoi was revived in 2005 and thousands of shows have been performed since then in India and abroad. One of the earliest references in print to Dastangoi is a 19th century text containing 46 volumes titled Dastan- e-Amir Hamza.
While the audience had a peep into Gandhi’s life in the one-hour long performance, there were some humorous moments when the artist compared Gandhi’s austerity with that of present day politicians. Towards the end, the story teller took the audience to the partition of India and the violence that followed.
“The mighty British were shaken by the most non-violent form or protest during Dandi march led by Gandhi. One can imagine the farsightedness of the leader,” Agha said.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the portfolio of art, culture and languages, was the chief guest at the event.