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Ankit Chadha, a brilliant young dastango, story teller, writer and performer, was invited to develop a Dastangoi for Living Lightly, which captured the dialectics of mobile pastoralists, our settled society and the State. Working closely with the LL team, and after travelling to meet pastoralists in different parts of the country, Ankit gave life to “Dastan-e-Khanabadosh”, basing himself on a wonderful interpretation of the “Dastangoi” form.Dastangoi is a word of Persian origin, and this form of storytelling has had its own Indian career since the 13th century.

The form was revived in 2005. Ankit was a young dastango, or storyteller, and had lent this form to tell contemporary stories. The storyteller, dressed in white kurta and churidar, wearing a characteristic embroidered cap, caught everyone’s attention straight away.
The auditorium was packed, and so many of those
whose story he was about to tell – the pastoralists
– jostled to get space beside him on the stage.
 So we had the story teller and the pastoralists who
inspired the story, all dressed in their impressive
finery, in front of us! 
Hartingaram ji, a Raika herder, and  a Bharwad herder
felicitates Ankit after his spellbinding Dastangoi in IGNCA, Delhi.

Ankit told the story in fluent Hindustani, Urdu words and couplets with their sonorous brilliance took us away from the auditorium into the wide open spaces where nomadic pastoralist Maldharis live their lives. The drama of free movement, the spirit of shared destinies, the deep reverence for nature, and the joyful acceptance of all that life gives – these came through as Ankit moved from point to point in his fluent and enjoyable narration.

The story itself cannot be put in other words! The life of the people on the move, moving slowly, in search, pausing to taste nature’s offerings, was contrasted to those who live in one place, constantly striving to reach never-to-be-reached goals. The contrast between these two modes was sharply brought out through the imaginative metaphor of the race between the tortoise and the rabbit! Ankit laced his tale with a humour that was without a trace of bitterness, and effortlessly showed up the relevance of the story’s moral message to contemporary life. 
The story-teller’s art lies in making the story become a mirror to the listener, while never preaching or hectoring. And Ankit did this with great charm and captivated everyone’s ears eyes and hearts – especially that of the pastoralists who insisted on front row seats during all his performances, finding it difficult to believe that this 28 year old talented Delhi lad could lend such an authentic voice to their inner world. As one of them remarked ‘He is one of our own, a sufi saint himself!’

Ankit Chaddha was a renowned storyteller, oral narrative performer, researcher and writer, specialized in the tradition of Dastangoi. Living Lightly collaborated with Ankit to develop Khanabadosh - a dastango on pastoralist lives, which Ankit wrote and performed. Sadly, Ankit passed away in a tragic drowning accident near pune on May 9, 2018.