Folk Tales have a way of telling you history in a way that it is wrapped in fiction. They add their own twists and turns to the anecdotes we have often heard from our elders. Sometimes they remove the practical details and give a mystical aura to the story. The fact that some big or small incident of the past survived through various generations carrying a message for the coming generations makes each of these tales fascinating.
Author Rima Hooja in Rajasthani Stories Retold has chosen 9 such tales from across the state of Rajasthan – from Bundi to Bikaner and from Amber to Jodhpur. If you have traveled across Rajasthan, you would have heard some of these stories, if not all. Sometimes you would have heard it with different names and sometimes with slightly different details. However, we often hear them in their 2-3 line version as part of a larger narrative. What Rima Hooja has done is – she has weaved a whole story around that bit of information. She etches a scene and brings the central character alive along with the rest of the cast.
In some stories she makes you feel what the character is going through like the first story where she talks about a woman sacrificing her son to save the prince. It reminded of a similar story I had heard at Chittorgarh Fort. Another story I heard at Bikaner.
The overall impression that you get from these tales is that Rajasthan never had one big strong kingdom. It was always a collation of small kingdoms each with its own fort and palaces. No wonder Rajasthan today has so many heritage properties with them. During the Mughal reign, most of them worked under the Delhi Durbar – fighting for them in their campaigns in far off places.
Rima Hooja has chosen all the warrior stories to tell in Rajasthani Stories Retold. Stories of kingdoms being lost and captured, of Kings renouncing and coming back for the call of duty, of rewards of bravery and stories of planning for a battle. There are no personal stories, no love stories – no, not even love in the time of war or rivalry. These are heroic tales of past heroes, that in my opinion are preserved more to inspire and motivate the new warriors.
Women were strong in their own ways. Sometimes they showed their strength in their duties and sometimes in their questioning of duties of their menfolk. They are there but only 2 stories have them as the main character. They still play the role of a mother or a wife, but nonetheless, they have a role in the history of their kingdoms.
Each folktale is followed by a small dose of history related to the tale. It is a case of facts adding value to the folk narrative.
Stories are short and crisp. Language is easy.