30-year-old author, researcher and storyteller Ankit Chadha, who was considered the youngest proponent of the world’s oldest form of Urdu storytelling, ‘Dastangoi’, drowned in a lake near Pune on Wednesday night.
With thunderous voice, Ankit Chadha, who is thought to be the youngest Dastango in India, enthralled audiences during his vigorous performances of the Urdu lore of Dastangoi. When Chadha arrived in the Heritage City of Ahmedabad last year during the Living Lightly – Journeys with Pastoralists programme to perform Dastan-e-Khanabadosh, I asked him in a press gathering, “What is this 13th century old Dastangoi that you are planning to perform?” To this, he smiled and said, “You will have to experience it for yourself to know the essence of it.” Later that evening, when I attended Chadha’s rendition of the world’s oldest form of Urdu story recitation, I realised that this was one of the most striking storytelling sessions I have ever attended in my life.
Chadha, who wouldn’t pause for even a few seconds to think while reciting, possessed the power to take you beyond the realm of imagination through his words. His demise on May 11 is a massive loss for the Urdu fraternity and for all those who have ever seen him perform these traditional folklores on stage. Chadha’s biographical content about personalities like Kabir, Rahim, Dara Shikoh and Majaaz transported him to the international stages of Princeton, Toronto, Harvard and Yale. Regrettably, Chadha didn’t know swimming when his feet slipped by the shores of Uksan Lake at Kamshet, a town located on the outskirts of Pune, in the evening hours of Wednesday the 9th of May. He slipped 20 feet deep into the water and drowned.
As an author, Ankit Chadha published a book in 2016 on the mystical poet Amir Khusrau under the title Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles. He also co-wrote a book on the life incidents of Mahatma Gandhi called My Gandhi Story. According to his website, Chadha drafted more than 13 literary Dastangoi performances. While death may have taken the young Dastango from us today, his creations will be remembered for a long time.
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