India in the 18th century – India is a British colony described as ‘the jewel in the crown of Britain’. A young English girl lives in the Deccan region with her father, who is an officer in the British army. Every summer, they travel in a caravan to the mountains to escape the heat of the plains. It is a long journey, made by horse and palanquin and too long for the young 11 year old. She has her ayah – her nanny who has wet-nursed her and brought her up since her mother died in childbirth. The nanny is a ‘native’. She is ‘dakhani’ – from the Deccan region. She tells stories to the young English girl to keep her occupied on the long march. The girl never forgets them. She writes them down when she grows older, and brings them back to England. She publishes them in a book dedicated to her ayah. And they lie in the pages of a book. I find the book during my archival research, and with permission of the publishers take them back to the soil from whence they sprang. There I work with women over two years to see if any survived and how they are still remembered. The women create 3 appliqué panels as they retell these stories. This is my labour of love; and a re-translation of taking the stories from Deccan back to the land via the words of a young English girl. The storytelling piece consists of the frame story of the English girl and her Indian wet-nurse, and 3 fairytales and folk stories from the collection. They are stories of fairies and witches; and of a bride who turned herself into a bridegroom to begin her quest. The stories are told in English, Gujarati, Urdu and Marathi – the languages of the Deccan region.
Gauri Raje is a storyteller, educator, and workshop facilitator working with adolescents and adults from multilingual, multicultural, and disadvantaged backgrounds. She draws on a variety of genres: fairy tales, epics, myths, and autobiographical narratives. She tells stories in a variety of languages including Urdu, Hindi, English, and other Indian languages. She is especially interested in the concepts of witnessing in storytelling, translation, multilingualism, and embodied nature of creating stories. Gauri’s earliest memories of storytelling are of sitting curled up in a sari and her grandmother reading stories to her.
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