A Your Echoes In Space Presentation: An Interview With My Protagonist, Alok
Words and Pictures by © Mazzy Khatun 2017
His eyes were dark and reassuring, two pits of ancient coal. I could taste the light and fire sealed inside them. I cleared my throat, ready to write.
‘Where do your stories come from, Alok?
A koel perched on the window ledge. He glanced over, gave a soft smile. ‘You know that place, you know it well.’
‘Are you talking to me or the bird?’ I grinned, chewed my lips.
He turned and looked at me, tenderly, meaningfully. ‘Far off places that are close by. That’s where my stories first yawn. Oceans, forests, caves; places near to the heat and heart of the earth, so near that if you ask they will tell you everything, they will remember for you as far back as the beginning of things.’
‘What you mean to say is that stories come from deep within us.’ I shifted in my rattan chair.
‘Where else?’ He chuckled.
‘Any stories you would like to tell me that have inspired your own writing?’
He searched my face, my eyes. ‘All the ones mingled with my mother’s voice.’
‘Your mother was a storyteller?’
‘She was. She is.’
I tapped my pen on my knee. ‘What stories of hers do you remember?’
He leaned back, sighed. ‘Myths, legends, fairy tales, folk tales, tales of long ago when people wore bearskin and conch shells and gathered round roaring fires.’
My eyes widened, glimmered. ‘That is an impressive list.’
When he smiled a dimple appeared on his left cheek. It felt familiar. ‘I’ve hardly begun. And then there was – there was One Thousand And One Nights.’
‘One Thousand And One Nights?’
‘You know it, you know it very well.’
I nodded. ‘I know I do.’
He raised his hand, and with his index finger traced a spiral in the air. ‘A story within a story within a story…’
I imagined the teller of those tales. ‘Scheherazade.’
I clicked my tongue. ‘She told stories as if she were a daughter of infinity.’
He smiled. ‘Yes.’
I looked up at the fan, whirring. A car honked outside followed by the curses of a street vendor. Good old Kolkata. ‘You know, Alok, I remember them: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Aladdin, and The Fisherman and the Jinn, and The Cat and the Crow.’
He came closer. ‘Yes, but which one was your favourite?’
I met his gaze. ‘Why do you ask, Alok?’
‘Because you are making me, right now, right this moment. I am so real that I want to know more about my storyteller. Her story. Your story.’
I reached up to my left cheek, felt the coal pit in the dimple of my smile, so fertile with light, ready to shine out to the world.