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No life without stories, says country’s first lady Dastango

‘Women centric issues close to heart’

Udaipur : She was 31 then. Her parents thought it was quite unwise of her to quit a permanent job as a lecturer in the State Council of Educational Research and Training and that too, to venture into something that is not a female forte. But Fouzia stood undeterred and its 8 years now that she has been in Dastangoi- the Urdu art of story tellying.  Her journey had been very difficult owing to a modest family background, no Godfather to promote, social pressures, low turnout of audience and above  all Dastangoi being a male domain. But Fouzia, the first female Dastango survived it all and this story teller even after years of expertise makes it a point to rehearse 4 hours daily to attain perfection in voice modulations and intonation that are the essence of the art. Inspired by Fouzia, few lady story tellers tried their hands at the art, but no one was consistent as her.

“ I cant imagine my life without Dastangoi. I was destined to become a Dastango because I felt the urge deep within my hearts as a child. Renowned Dastango Mir Baqar was from Old Delhi where I was born and grew up listening to stories narrated by my grandmother. Life, emotions and love wouldn’t exist without stories” Fouzia told Udaipur Kiran. The storyteller is in Udaipur, participating in the first International StoryTellying Festival hosted by My Anchor Foundation and BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Rajasthan Tourism. Her rendition of ‘Nanhi ki Nani’ earned much applauds from the audience. Storytelling had been an integral part of any culture, class or religion since times immemorial, says Fouzia. However, with the advance of technology, televisions, satellite channels, mobiles and access of internet, children are not interested in listening to tales or even reading them, Fouzia says.

“ Emperor Akbar was a Dastango himself who was instrumental in popularizing the art in India, however it passed into oblivion after Mir Baqar’s death in 1928. Now for some time, efforts are being made to revive this tradition” she said. On being asked on subjects of her stories, Fouzia says women issues are close to her heart however, there are lot of stories in her kitty including an hour long rendition on ‘Gandhi’ which is much liked by the audience. Fouzia specialises in telling stories from Urdu masters like  Ismat Chughtai, Sadat Hassan Manto and Intizar Hussain whom she lists as her favorites. Not many women are into Dastangoi but Fouzia is determined to dedicate her entire life for it. Dastangoi includes using abusive and objectionable words sometimes which are not expected and welcomed from a woman’s mouth, doesn’t that matters to her? “ Initially it did and I felt very awkward while using foul language but my director Danish Iqbal convinced me that when I am on stage, there is no Fouzia there but only the character, for eg like  a less educated old woman who is frustrated and venting out her anger when her little granddaughter is raped in the story- Nanhi ki Nani” she claims. Fouzia has done nearly 100 shows across the country and is presently working on a performance on legendary actress Meena Kumari’s poetry.

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