How much of a threat is youthful Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati? Just to make sure that Azad does not hijack the Dalit supporters of the BSP, Mayawati declared her 28-year-old nephew Akash Anand as her political heir last Sunday.

Akash Anand will manage the party affairs in places where the organisation is weak while Mayawati will handle the working of the party in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand (UK). Anand will also keep the house-bound Mayawati connected to her supporters on the ground.

The question is what miracle is Anand expected to perform that will improve the plight of Dalits in UP, home of the most backward Dalits in all of India.

Development activities in UP and employment opportunities have been at a standstill for several decades. According to reports the sex ratio, literacy rate and work participation rate is much lower than their counterparts in other states.

There has been a gradual fall of Dalits from the category of cultivators to the category of landless labourers in the past few decades. The result is that a majority from the Dalit community find themselves more disempowered than ever.

Lalu Kannaujia, a Dalit student leader in Lucknow is doubtful of Azad’s power to lead Dalits towards a more promising future.

“Azad’s politics is too brash and aggressive and Mayawati’s political plans are unclear. The Dalits in UP are in a state of confusion and feel helpless. We don’t know who to turn to for political leadership,” Kannaujia told The Citizen.

The biographer of Mayawati, Ajoy Bose said that Azad, and his Bhim Army has tried in fits and starts to revive the Dalit movement in Western UP but he has a long way to go to replace the BSP.

Anand is seen as inexperienced, and a political novice. He has none of the native cunning and fire that Mayawati, his aunt showed when she was young. Most importantly he does not have a political genius like Kanshi Ram to mentor him. Some within the Dalit community are annoyed with the constant comparisons made between Mayawati and Azad.

It is felt that Mayawati’s in house planning together with the muscle power of Azad is better for all Dalits. Many would like to see Mayawati and Azad work together in the interest of the Dalits of UP.

More Than Politics

While politicians will be politicians and show more interest in talking about who will contest the Lok Sabha election in 2024, others in Lucknow look forward to the annual Repertwahr Theatre Festival to open here on December 15. This year the three-day Repertwahr will be held under the star studded sky over the Fairydale Lawns of the historic La Martiniere College from the 19th Century.

The theatre, music and comedy festival will include a literature section and a food festival to the delight of the audience. The literary sessions and meet the artiste events will be hosted by media professional Roshan Abbas.

Battery cars and wheelchairs will be at the service of senior citizens, who would often miss shows like this one as walking long distances was not possible for them.

The spirit behind the 15-year-old theatre festival is Bhoopesh Rai. Performances have been organised by him this year on a makeshift open air amphitheatre, that can accommodate an audience of at least 5,000 people.

The Art of Storytelling

Storytelling is perhaps the first form of teaching and learning developed by human beings. It is an art form used to understand a world so chaotic and confusing.

Storytelling is also the art of sharing memories, insights, data and common sense with each other in an entertaining way. It is a way to figure out right from wrong.

It is one of the oldest art forms to be practised in the country where different populations in different parts of the Indian sub-Continent had developed their own unique way to tell stories through paintings, puppetry, music and dance.

A classical way of storytelling developed in Lucknow called Dastangoi or the art of telling stories. ‘Dastan’ means story in Persian and ‘goi’ is to narrate.

Around the 18th Century the art of Dastangoi travelled from Delhi to Lucknow where local legends, popular fantasies and local dialects were used to string together entertaining narratives that were immensely popular with both the elite, and the people on the street.

The last of Lucknow’s Dastango Sheikh Tassaduq Hussain passed away in 1918 and after that the art of storytelling in Urdu was forgotten. Only a few decades ago Dasntagoi was revived and Himanshu Bajpai emerged as a worthy successor to Hussain.

For nearly a decade all that master storyteller Bajpai has been doing is to spin tales. The stories that he tells are so riveting that he routinely receives a standing ovation.

Today, he has also received the Shri Harikrishna Trivedi Memorial Youth Award for his contribution to the same art.

Bajpai is the author of “Kissa Kissa Lucknowwa” (Stories of Lucknow) that documents many a forgotten tale full of mystery and romance about the historic city.

The award includes a cash prize of Rs 1.5 lakh and is given annually for the past seven years in memory of journalist, freedom fighter, and social worker Harikrishna Trivedi.

None other than Bajpai best deserves this award for continuing to entertain locals but audiences worldwide as well with wonderful stories about love, life and longing in Lucknow.

Unstoppable Song & Dance

The song and dance is unstoppable in Lucknow. A 20-year-old decided to cut his birthday cake with a sword. His gang of friends thought that it was such a cool thing to do to park the cake on the bonnet of a car and to pull out a sword to cut it to the din of numerous firecrackers.

All was well till a video was made of the celebrations and released on social media, attracting the attention of the police.

The police arrived promptly to confiscate the three-feet long sword and to handcuff the birthday boy, bringing the party to an unhappy end.