Fouzia Dastango Is India’s First Female Dastango Who Makes Stories Come To Life
- IWB Post
- February 16, 2018
The instant Fouzia Dastango takes up the stage to commence her storytelling or Dastangoi, her voice starts floating in the atmosphere. Fouzia starts building the gossamer of a story which almost instantly comes to life under the trained supervision of her voice and its modulations.
The word Dastangoi is an amalgamation of two Urdu words Dastan and goi. The word means to tell a dastan or story and is an oral art of Urdu storytelling in which the dastango or the storyteller employs his/her voice as the central prop of storytelling. The art form has its roots in Persia and found its way in India with the spread of Islam.
Fouzia is based in Jasola and was born and brought up in a lower-middle-class family among the charms of Old Delhi, every knock, and corner of which reeked of an old, ancient, enchanting story. Since her very childhood, she was lead by the charm of stories and spent whatever little pocket money she got to purchase books and comics. She also grew up being warned by her mom not to cook up stories but little did she know what destiny had in store for Fouzia.
In an interaction with The Better India, Fouzia said, “I remember listening to folktales and stories from my maternal and paternal grandmothers. Appa Chammo from our neighborhood would tell us stories while I looked on with absolute awe and delight. Little did I think, I would grow up to narrate stories myself”.
After her schooling from an Urdu-medium school, she completed her honors in Sociology and Masters in education planning and administration from Jamia Millia Islamia. She then took up her job as a lecturer at the State Council of Educational Research & Training (SCERT). While she was always attracted to the performing arts she had her family’s financial commitments to fulfill and thus took up that job.
Interestingly, she didn’t even know about the art of Dastangoi till 2006 when her friend Prabhat introduced her to the idea. Incidentally, she made it to a show where modern dastangos Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Hussain were performing. These dastangos were accredited with reviving the art form in India and therefore exuded a different kind of charm altogether.
While for a while she continued her job parallel to Dastangoi, it was in 2014 that she quit her job to take up Dastangooi fulltime. Her mother was initially furious with her decision.“My mother couldn’t comprehend why I would want to leave the respectable and well-earning job of a lecturer and become a storyteller. ‘Lecturer ki naukri beta kaun chodta hai’, is all she said. Surprisingly, my younger brother stood up in my support and asked my parents to let me do what I felt so passionate about,” said Fouzia.
Over the years that followed she trained herself in the art form and also became the first female dastango. She expressed, “I had no one to guide me initially. No theatre experience, no voice training, nothing. The good thing was that I worked with Mehboob Farooqui for seven years which built my confidence.”
She now conducts storytelling workshops in schools and colleges to spread awareness about the art and keep it alive. She has performed in over 100 shows till date with some comprising of a mixed crowd and some even comprising of an all-male crowd. She believes that “It is a heritage that we are keeping alive and passing down to future generations after all.”
Her mantra to succeed in life is to do something that keeps your passion alive and therefore always chooses the stories that she truly loves. She is always careful while picking genres and feminism is one of them as she reveals in the feminist world of Ismat Chugtai. “I don’t want to be just a woman in a crowd holding a banner demanding change. I want to affect the change through the medium of Dastangoi storytelling”, she says.
Image Source: Hindustan Times