Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Story Teller's Tale - Omair Ahmad

The setting is perfect. 18th century, attack of Delhi by Ahmad Shah Abdali and his men. His house has been ransacked and he had to flee as the case of others with the minimum essentials that he could gather. Avadh, is the destination. His life as a poet and story teller hasn't given him monitory freedom in his life, only a few well wishers. Thakir is a days ride from the city on the way to Avadh. On a stolen horse, as insipid as him, he reaches the gates of this small town. Distraught and tired, all he needed was rest and some food.
When the Begum of the casbah ( mansion / citadel ) invite him to tell a tale ( on hearing about is credentials), little did he realise that he is getting into a maze from which there is no escape. When he narrates the tale of two brothers ( one a boy and the other a wolf) , of loyalty , fear, love and distrust, he was confronted by a return story by the Begum of Aresh and Barab , reinstating the power of love and trust beyond death. Now this was the first time, the story teller was challenged with a counter tale. He has to respond with a story establishing the facts he believe in countering that of the Begum. Thus , he return to the Casbah to tell his version of the Begum's story , emphasizing on the duality of life and the hidden dark animalistic desire of human kind. Begum has the final act of narration, and taking cue from where the story teller left, getting back to unfulfilled love and the suppressed desire leaving him perplexed for ever.
It is the book on story telling. Exploring possibilities within the frame work of the given story, finding new interpretations and new meanings. It is also about conveying hidden messages of the human kind. It is also confronting the enemy by your means. The story is also the place to set their personal attributes. The story teller had never been in love , all his life. He had never succumbed to the temptation, until now. It is only now, that he was faced with a challenge which had disarmed him. It is now, he has seen his own vulnerability.
While the focus and centre point of the short novel is on the story telling, what I liked is the subtle and simple way of getting the human nature into the same. The peripheral characters and the places has no significance in the whole. And the initial setting of the plot ( the Ahmad Shah Abdali , the destruction of Delhi etc) also play no role in the novel.
A well constructed novel, with god simple writing makes it a good read. It may not be a literary sensation or one book that will be in discussion after ten years. Nonetheless, it is a good short novel, well executed.
The Storyteller's Tale
Omair Ahmad
Penguin Books India
122 Pages
Rs 225
More read : The Hindu , Interview with the author in Bangalore Mirror and mybangalore.com

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