Of Stories Untold: Qissa
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story”- Maya Angelou
Picture a cozy cottage, add a warm and friendly Labrador. Now add bulbs and fairy lights and the sound of the rain. Add to this a bunch of passionate storytellers and an eager crowd. What you get is a memorable night filled with laughter sorrow, drama, plot twists, and the fact that though different, we all share the same story.
Qissa aimed to bring together storytellers from different walks of life, and put them under one roof along with an eager audience. Hosted at the cozy “Paranakuti Homestay,” visitors were greeted by a friendly Labrador at the entrance. The event took off at around 7 P.M as the first storyteller took to the stage.
Of Love and Loss
Siddhant Kala, a 3rd year student at the School of Communication took over the stage as the first story teller of the night. He spoke at length about his relationships and about how his teenage romantic relationships shaped him into the person he is. He talked about love and loss, and how one day he just snapped, and decided to spend all his energy trying to build himself rather than chasing people who would not reciprocate his love.
The Human Touch, and The Stories of an Old Man
Mr. Thomas took over the stage to talk about his first job. Emerging from rural Kerala, the old man was recruited at the British Physical Laboratories. The only guy to work for the prestigious organization from his region, he had a tough time working at BPL. One fine day, Mr. Thomas ran off from his day job and shut himself down. He spent his time trying to work on his communication skills. He later applied to work as a cardiovascular technician at KMC, Manipal.
Juggling between the technical aspect of medical machinery, and the very real, life altering applications, he learnt the fact that our efforts have very real effects on the people around us. Sometimes to the point where it becomes a matter of life and death.
The Cocktail of Culture and Mythology
Hrishabh Kanti spoke about how the culture he was brought up in, and the mythology that affected him as a kid, shaped him into the person he is today. He brought up incidents from his childhood, spoke about Ramayana and about how it was considered un-holy to take a leak after bathing, and about how he had to improvise during chhat puja. He had a fear that he would be turned into a statue if he committed a sin. This shaped his beliefs and superstitions as a kid.
He talked about his experience in the boys hostel, and about how his friends talked about women as if they were some mystical creatures from a far away land. All his superstitions were shattered once he actually made female friends, and came to know that they are not scary creatures only heard of in stories. Once he lost his innocence, he looked back at the mythology he came across as a child, and reached the comforting conclusion that even Lord Rama was impious in multiple ways.
The Girl in The Boys’ Hostel
With his face covered with a surgical mask, dressed in a surgeon’s suit, Angad Gummaraju took to stage with the sound of the heart rate monitor beeping in the background. Stitching a story of the life of a transwoman, Angad spoke about how sometimes we are born in the wrong bodies, and all we can do, is to fight for ourselves. The person, who was born as a boy, suffers hardships all her life. Starting from childhood when she decided that she wants to buy high heels for herself, and about how the shopkeepers laughed at her. As she crawls through high school, she notices that there is a new divide in her class. There is a divide between boys and girls, and now there are new emotions, new feelings. After keeping it in for months, she decides to go to her crush, and confesses her love. Her crush makes a joke out of her, and leaves, breaking the friendship the two of them shared; in the process.
The story takes a sharp turn, when a group of men follow the transwoman, passing taunts and saying mean things to her, and when she doesn’t pay any heed to them, they hit her on the head. When she opens her eyes, she sees blaring lights, surgeons shouting orders, and multiple units of blood being hung near the headrest. At this precise moment of marvelous certainty, the transwoman realizes that she wants to be a doctor, because in that moment when these surgeons were shouting orders, all that mattered was the fact that they needed to save the patient’s life. Nobody knew what they hid behind the mask, nobody knew what they did outside the OT, nobody knew what they ate, what they talked about. And in that moment none of the differences mattered.
The heartbreaking tale of confusion, coping mechanisms, crushes, feelings, the demons of the society, and the person’s perseverance against it all; kept the audience hooked right through the entire performance.
What are you seeking?
Nadeem Ahmed took to stage with a tantalizing story from his first year hostel block. Part fiction and part reality, he weaved a tale assuming himself to be the protagonist, who befriends a guy from the neighboring room, for the person had the same taste of music as he did. He started staying in his friend’s room and spent all his time with him. He later shifted all his stuff to his friend’s room and started living there. He would rarely go to his own room, according to him. On an eventful night, after an interesting conversation with his friend, he decided to take a walk in the corridor. At the 3 a.m he was greeted by a sweeper, cleaning the corridor. Amused and scared by this observation, he decided to stare at the sweeper. The maintenance staff stared back at him. A chill shriveled down his spine as the lightning illuminated the corridor. He looked to his back at the glass panels, and when he turned to face the sweeper again, the sweeper was gone. He hurried to his room, took out his keys and held the lock in his hand. He noticed scratches and dents on its body. He inserted the key and with a swift movement the lock came undone. Now when Nadeem opened the door, it didn’t swing. In fact the door was locked from within. At 3 a.m when the entire student town slept in peace, Nadeem was locked out of his own room.
He took a deep breath and knocked sharply. After a few moments later, the door opened. To his disbelief, the sunlight shone through the window. It was an august evening, with raindrops hanging on the window rails. He saw himself, sitting on the bed, right in front of his eyes. Flabbergasted, he tapped his own projection on the shoulder. His projection looked him into the eye, closed the book he was reading, and handed it over to Nadeem. Nadeem took the book in his hand, slid out the bookmark towards the bottom, and read the exact page he was about to read a long time ago at the beginning of the semester. The page read: “What you seek, is seeking you.”
The audience cheered at the marvelously stitched tale, as the event came to an end.
– Peeyush Chauhan for MTTN.
Photographs by Julius Pereira.