If you haven’t known Ankit Chadha in the Urdu storytelling circuit, chance of this news shattering you from within is quite high. It broke my heart, at least.
I came across an article, clicked on it and couldn’t leave it midway. It talks about the talented young author, storyteller Ankit who passed away in an unfortunate accident on May 9, 2018. Ankit had worked with non-profits to weave modern tales on sustainability, technology and hunger. He had spoken on Dastangoi globally, including at Harvard, Yale and University of Toronto.
According to Chintan Girish Modi, the author of the article and Ankit’s good friend, his work in the field of storytelling, literature and writing was exceptional. He describes Ankit as someone with “depth, passion and vigour.”
Ankit had gone to Pune to deliver the Dastan-e-Kabir performance. He and his friend slipped and fell into water while taking a walk near Kamshet Lake, outside Pune. His friend survived but Ankit couldn’t make it. He was just 30.
“Ankit had honed the art of Urdu storytelling known as dastangoi, an oral form that revolves around the dastango or storyteller, using their voice to conjure up an elaborate cast of characters, transporting audiences to distant worlds and making them think about their own immediate reality”, writes Modi.
Modi has penned down his life experiences with Ankit that speak of his emotions as he tries to come to terms with the sudden, unexpected loss of a friend and a great human being.
The piece saddened me. I didn’t know of such a talented person with his roots in New Delhi before this article and neither I would be able to see his “spellbinding” performance nor be in his “prolific” presence ever after. Is it because usually stage artistes don’t receive acclamation as easily and intensely like the mainstream actors of the Indian film industry or do they choose to stay away from the limelight or maybe, they are just not given the deserving spotlight? It has miffed me.
“Ankit landed up wherever he could tell a story, and made a place for himself in the hearts of people. He knew how to make them laugh and cry, and be thirsty for more. He nurtured friendships with people from various social spaces, and found a way to be himself whether at a music festival in the villages of Madhya Pradesh or at an Ivy League university in the US.”
It was 2:30 am. I was wrapping up work but couldn’t stop myself to open YouTube and check Ankit’s work. A young, confident man who appeared to be taking on the world, one story at a time. In an era of fake news and superficial social media, here was a man who took a deep dive into the historical stories, truth and treasure of knowledge and presented and shared with the world with utter honesty.
Truly, India has lost a flag bearer of storytelling in him and a performer par excellence.
If Chintan’s reminiscing words don’t leave a void in your heart, not sure what else will.