An Interview With My Protagonist, Alok

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.’

When he smiled a dimple appeared on his left cheek. It felt familiar. ‘I’ve hardly begun. And then there was One Thousand And One Nights.’

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.’

‘Yes. 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.’

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 Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Aladdin, and The Fisherman and the Jinn, and The Cat and the Crow.’

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.

My Berry First Act

A Your Echoes In Space Presentation: My Berry First Act

Words and Pictures by © Mazzy Khatun 2017

The curtain was long and black, and it hung down in perfect motionless ripples. I looked all the way up to see where it came from. Did this curtain have roots – roots that grew out from somewhere high up in the ceiling? I squinted, my eyes searched, but I could find no hint of their origin. The upper world of the stage was a mystery, a convoluted pipework of metal and interlacing wires. Bulky studio lights stared down at me. Their square flaps looked like ears trained to listen in to our every word.

Someone spoke and my eyes came down. I turned and looked out. Beyond me and the polished black floor of the stage was a sight new, and not new. It was the intimately familiar, but out of reach, existing a million miles away. Over there I knew their ways and rituals, over there was a safe world.  It was a sloping world of seats. A steep slope. A terraced paddy of red. They rose upwards and away from me. The back edge seemed to be still growing, receding, pushing back boundaries.

I pondered on my situation. I was well acquainted with buying a ticket, be led to my seat, and play the role of the seated. The watcher of the show. The ice-cream gobbler at intermission. The clapper to the act.

Take-to-the-starry-stage-1

“I was well acquainted with buying a ticket, be led to my seat, and play the role of the seated. “

“The watcher of the show. The ice-cream gobbler at intermission. The clapper to the act. “

Not this time.

This time there was a story. It was burning. Deep inside of me. A winged origami with veins of fire. It was a creature of flight and voice and expression. It blazed day and night, and the tips of my thumb and index finger, the clamping points for my pen, seethed with heat.

When the opportunity arose for taking part in the first ever MA Writers Voice venture, an exciting collaboration between storytellers and the unique multi-sensorial textures of theatre, I leapt at the challenge!  This was my golden chance – a chance to test Edward and Alok. The ultimate litmus test. If I could convince my audience of the integrity of my two protagonists, if I could engage and compel strangers to lean in closer, if I could entice new ears to want to know more of the trajectory of Your Echoes In Space, then I had a chance. A ticket. A portal to a bolstered sense of confidence that here was a story that others could care about, too. Whilst the dream diary reinforced my faith in the narrative, a theatrical hybridisation shone with the potential to resuscitate my characters. To bring them alive.

And so the night of the reading came.

The stage glowed with expectation and fertility. A black open-air womb. Tonight my throat, my hands, my eyes, my every cell was invested with purpose: To add bone. To add flesh. To add voice. There on the controlled and lit sacred ground, the grand black stage, with its black as night curtain and watchful black studio lights, I willed for Alok and Edward’s reincarnation, their magnificent metamorphosis, their osmotic transition into the real world.

I unclipped the mic from the mount. I faced the familiar world of red seats and the inquisitive eyes of the audience. I caught snatches of eager whisperings. I took a deep breath. The side spotlight warmed my cheek. I felt my sneakers tell me wise things, that there was nothing to be afraid of. I was reassured that I was not separate from where I stood. I grew out from the stage, a black protrusion, a tree of motion, conceived of moon and night.

I had nothing to lose.

Nothing at all.

So, I gave it all.

And.

I came away with more.

Much, much more.

The Berry Theatre experience was a beautiful and priceless landmark event in the development of Your Echoes In Space. I realised that I deeply cared for my characters, Alok and Edward, and with the sort of intensity that was potent enough to peel them off the page.

Over the course of one night, my two boys were no longer characters. I gave them permission to leave their roots.

For five minutes, they were people.

“The stage glowed with expectation and fertility. A black open-air womb. Tonight my throat, my hands, my eyes, my every cell was invested with purpose: To add bone. To add flesh. To add voice. “

My Dream Diary

A Your Echoes In Space Presentation: My Dream Diary

Words and Pictures by © Mazzy Khatun 2017

 

An idea for a story can behave like the moon. It appears bright, swollen with revelation. You twirl in excitement. You shout it out. You breathe it.

Then, just like that, it wanes. It vanishes.

Without your consent.

Without waiting to hear what you have to say.

Without warning.

You eventually console yourself, reasoning that the idea has departed for good. No longer do you feel its unmistakable tug. It has left your world and joined the dark darkness of oblivion. No one will ever know about it. It was never meant to be.

The end.

Not quite.

Your Echoes In Space was born last autumn. I chose a photograph out of a constellation of possibilities to use as a writing prompt. It was a dated picture of an intimidating teacher looking down at a boy. He had his arms behind his back, his head slightly lowered. She was waiting for him to pick up the chalk and write on the blackboard. There was no clock in the scene yet I could hear the ticking of the hand, the loud ominous dragging of time.

I took that photograph home with me. By evening, Edward had pushed through into existence. A brilliant-minded and exceptionally articulate pupil, he was also something else. A self-isolating racist bully. I saw him take particular joy in picking on the new ‘coloured’ kid, Alok.

In those embryonic moments I also saw astronomy. A discipline about distant things. The study of stars – the study of fantastic and mysterious entities of faraway places, that spun and pulsated light years above our heads, below our feet.  I wanted astronomy to be the adhesive, the study of the distant bridging the gap between two boys from two different worlds.

But.

In the autumn term of my MA writing course and through into the festive season, for reasons unknown to me, my passion for Your Echoes In Space began to wane. Somehow, something had pulled the plug. I was devoid of conviction.

My two boys had fled.

Determined to not let myself be swallowed up by the disappearance of my protagonists, I straightened up my back and returned to the drawing table. I scribbled new ideas, thoughts and musings. I must carry on, I told myself. I must.

In semester two my tutor introduced me to something that would change everything. It felt absolutely right. It was as if a missing piece had been salvaged and returned to my mantle; awareness once flaked and lost in the dense foliage of self-doubt now restored.

Welcome to the dream diary.

I have vivid dreams. They are always liberating and surreal and insightful. Till now it had never clicked that I could tap into this vast resource for fuelling my creative energy. I began to keep a diary. And I dreamt a lot, every night.

And, the dream was not just a dream. It was a bridge.

Between two worlds.

Between my boys and I.

They had not waned, withered, wasted.

They were growing, gestating, gleaming.

Like the furled sails of a new moon.

Alok and Edward.

In so many of my dreams.

They had not gone away. They had gone deeper. Deeper into me, into the parts of my brain for which no map could chart. Parts still wet from my primal days. Parts moist with soul.

I remembered. I remembered how to believe in my story again.

The dream diary. That is how they came back to my world, our world.

One world.

"They had not waned, withered, wasted. They were growing, gestating, gleaming. Like the furled sails of a new moon."

“They had not waned, withered, wasted. They were growing, gestating, gleaming. Like the furled sails of a new moon.”

"They had not gone away. They had gone deeper. Deeper into me, into the parts of my brain for which no map could chart. Parts moist with soul. "

“They had not gone away. They had gone deeper. Deeper into me, into the parts of my brain for which no map could chart. Parts still wet from my primal days. Parts moist with soul. “