An unexpected meeting with a pink-eyed, pant and shirt-clad rabbit urges Alice to peep into his house — a hole that holds a larger-than-life chessboard. The little girl jumps into it and slides into a topsy-turvy wonderland near the centre of Earth.
What happens next is a series of adventures as she encounters speaking cakes, fights with a hookah-smoking caterpillar, eats mushrooms that make her several feet tall in one bite and merely three inches short in another, and eventually ends up being crowned as the Wonderland’s queen.
Team Dastangoi on Tuesday made their foray into children’s genre with their story ‘Dastan Alice Ki’ — presented at Attic in Connaught Place to a packed hall, with absolutely no place to sit or stand.
Based on Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, the dastan left the audience — many of them between the ages of 6 and 12 accompanied by their parents, and a good dose of young adults in attendance — completely enthralled. The only difference between Carrol’s Alice and that of team Dastangoi was that the latter belongs to Delhi and lives with her parents, a studious elder sister and a black ‘Kitty’.
As the two young narrators, Ankit Chaddha and Poonam Girdhari, started telling the dastan, their audience chipped in with their own imaginations and interpretations of the tale — a nuance particular only to children-audience and hence, highly interactive.
The voice-modulations by Chaddha — cawing like the crow, squealing like the mouse, meowing like Alice’s Kitty, screeching like the monkey, squeaking like the rabbit whom she follows to in the hole and snorting like the Unicorn with whom she shares a blueberry cheese cake — drew loud cheers and peals of laughter from young and old alike.
The punches in the story, such as the protagonist’s meeting with the egg-shaped Humpty Dumpty, whom she eventually makes friends with, were hilarious.
At one instance in the story, Alice is told what an “unbirthday gift” is. “There are 365 days in a year; and only one birthday. So, gifts we get on rest 364 days are ‘unbirthday gifts’. 364 ‘unbirthday gifts’ are thus, better than one birthday gift,” the monkey tells Alice.
Dastango Mahmood Farooqui, who began reviving the centuries-old art of storytelling some years ago, told Newsline that he had been toying with the idea of having a dastan exclusively for children. “We feel that we need to catch them young. When they begin appreciating dastans at a young age, they eventually understand its details better when they grow up,” Farooqui, who wrote Alice ki Dastan, said. He is now working on dastans inspired from The Little Prince and Satyajit Ray’s film for children, Gopi Gayen Bagha Bayen.
Girdhari, herself a mother of an eight-year old daughter, said the desire to tell children’s stories had been there from the very beginning.
“In our times, storytelling sessions by grandparents was an important part of our lives. We grew up hearing stories. But this is missing from children’s lives today. So, we decided that we will narrate stories for children. We found that in Hindustani and Urdu, there were not much stories we could tell. So, the idea to mould Alice was conceived,” she said.