Storytelling: The Love Diary

I always wanted to visit Jamaa-el-Fna square in Marrakech, participating as a halca, while the halaiqui tells their tales. Truth be told, I’ve traveled around the world since a very young age – either alone or with my parents. And ever since I turned 18, I did most of my travelling by myself with someone or the other as my travel companion. Yes, every time, I’ve missed Morocco and dearly wish I could witness Hikayat in person.

My understanding of Arabic is basic, but drawing parallels with my Bengali cultural upbringing, I have noticed through Pattachitra (Bengali form of story telling through visuals, paintings) by Patuas or the Chitrakars of Bengal that the practitioners of performing (verbal and visual) arts have a way of making the story understood. Even when you don’t speak their language. It’s all in the tone, the expression, the body language – everything adds on to a cosmos, a scenario that gives way to imagination. Bengali story tellers use methods which are passed on from one generation to the other through oral transmission – in itself a thousand years of tradition. Similar to that of many other cultures around the world.

I have noticed that storytellers reside in tight knitted communities. The more I read about them, the more I realise that though they all belong to same art traditions (be it visual storytelling like in Bengal or oral story telling like in Morocco), stories are made of their personal and collective memories. Basic understanding of the surrounding reality and personal experiences deeply reflect on their ways to communicate morals, lessons, traditions and culture. There is something magical in the way they use various oral, painted and written tales to transport the listener to a new world that will stay with them forever.

When I wrote my first book “The Girl Child”, it took me about five years to collect my stories from people who went through those experiences and a year to write the book fully. Patuas and Halaiquis spend decades collecting stories, fine-tuning their craft before putting it forward for audiences. Compared to them, (with all due respect) I feel that us published authors are just privileged capitalistic idiots basking in the glory created by our agents and marketing teams.

So when I look back and wonder what I strive to achieve as a writer – I realise that it ain’t some Nobel or Pulitzer, rather the attention and hearts of people who read my writing – gather understanding and knowledge from them – just like what our traditional story tellers have done over thousands of years.

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