Instant To-Read

instant to-read; the desi folktale edition

Diwali is this weekend, and I thought it would be a nice way to honour my heritage to talk about some folktales I would love to see more of. It may be that I am looking in the wrong places, but I rarely – if ever – see retellings and reimaginings of desi folktales in media.

Sometimes we get Bollywood movies, that is true. But books?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen any and that is honestly such a shame because South Asia has a very rich and vibrant culture and history that should be taken advantage of*.

*I am very glad to see so many South Asian authors using their background as a way to world build and in their stories.

  • I am fascinated by the story of Heer-Ranjha. It is a tragic love story that does, at points, bring to mind Romeo and Juliet, but it is also so very much affected by the context of location and culture of the setting. Seeing a retelling of this somehow would be so wonderful.
  • Another tragic love story is that of Mirza-Sahiban, and while I had heard less of this one until I heard a song mentioning the couple, it is quite famous in Punjab. A retelling of it could work as well, because racial and caste tensions still exist in many parts of South Asia.
  • Most of the folktales I would love to see retold are love stories, and Sohni-Mahiwal is no different. This is a tragedy, again, and it can be powerfully done if one highlights family betrayal even more when doing it.
  • I have heard that there might be someone writing a Laila-Majnun inspired novel, and I am very, very excited. They might be one of the most well known love stories, and there have been so many movies made on them. My favourite reiteration of their story, however, is from a musical number in the Bollywood film Aaja Nachle (2007).

I have been reading a little more folktales so that I can tell them to my daughter, and so many of them would be so amazing to see retold and used as inspiration for novels. I dearly hope that we see an influx of desi folktale inspired works over the next few years.

Are there any folktales you particularly enjoy?

I’m Ara, a Southeast Asian writer who someday hopes to have published a novel, and who is currently losing herself in the worlds created by others. I love books and food and television and blogging and I get distracted and sidetracked easily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *