Omair Ahmads The Storytellers Tale is set in 18th century Delhi
The Delhi-based Omair Ahmad is working on four books,simultaneously. Before you sputter in disbelief,he will cheekily add that there are two novels as well. But for now,he is waiting for response to his just-released novella,titled The Storytellers Tale (Penguin,Rs 225).
In the 1700s after Ahmad Shah Abdalis troops have plundered Delhi the city of kings,a storyteller finds himself bereft of a roof over his head and an audience to regale. Weary from the sights of destruction and devastation,he sets out on a stolen horse without a destination. In the middle of the arid landscape,he finds a casbah and is captivated by the owner of the place,a Begum who asks him for a story. He complies,and he completes his story,only to be challenged by the Begum as she tells him one. They take turns to outdo each other,and with each
tale told,the storyteller and the Begum find themselves being drawn to each other.
Ahmad says he began writing the novel in 2005 while recovering from heart break. It began with me being in a perpetually confused space. I chose to write a novella because all the tales the storyteller and the Begum exchange,have a natural end in themselves, says Ahmad,34,who completed the book in 2006. I contextualised it in the 18th century as the book is mainly a retelling of old stories that I had heard as a child,stories which contained elements of Indian,Quranic and Biblical tales, says Ahmad. He says his work is heavily influenced by old Urdu and Farsi literature.
Although he claims that writing happened by accident,Ahmad quickly took to the Word and became a storyteller himself. To me,writing is like a conversation and I like to talk, chuckles Ahmad. His first book Encounters (Tara Press) was published in 2007 and was a novel on the radicalisation among a section of Indian Muslims during the 1990s. Currently Ahmad is entrenched in writing his other books,all at once. Theres another novella called Jimmy the Terrorist,followed by The Fabled City,a series of stories based in Gorakhpur. Apart from the novels,I am also writing a biography of my grandfathers brother who served as the Pakistan High Commissioner to India while retaining his Indian citizenship. Oh and theres a book on Bhutan, he adds,with a laughs. Look out for Ahmad,hell soon be bombarding you with books.