“I don’t remember when I heard him the first time, but I do remember that night when I walked alone on the streets of a strange metropolis, far away from my home. Neelesh Mishra’s voice echoed in my ears, as I walked on the concrete path leading to a space I recently had started to refer as home. A few moments later, my cheeks were moist, my vision was blurred … but I kept walking, as there was no hand to hold. Strange was the city, strange was the night, strange were the people around me, but the stranger on the radio was no more a stranger to me,” said Zulekha, from Delhi, in a telephonic interview. She was recalling the first time she heard Neelesh on radio.
On February 13, 2016, one of the favourite storytellers of the country, walked into the venue, Prayag Sangeet Samity, ready to stir paroxysm of emotions. He was there to enchant the denizens with his voice.
Sanchaari, a socio-cultural organisation, aiming to bring back the fervour and charm of the city, Allahabad, had organised an enchanting evening with the storyteller. The plan was to give Allahabad and its residents a chance to watch their favourite storyteller perform live and enjoy the art of storytelling in different ways.
On the eve of the Valentine’s Day, the hall was filled to capacity with audience. Each one came with an eagerness to meet and listen to Yaad Shehar ke by Neelesh. As the lights dimmed and the secretary of Sanchaari invited the storyteller on the stage, there were loud cheers and applause. The unexpected happened when Mahesh Bhatt came virtually to be connected with the audience through a microphone. The audience was enthralled.
The captivating voice of Neelesh won the hearts of the people. As the evening advanced, the audience was engrossed with the enchanting stories. Nostalgia, love and happiness were the many emotions that the storyteller brought out from his rich treasure.
The storytelling session was at its zenith when Neelesh began a heart-to- heart interaction with the vibrant audience. Not only the youth but men and women of various age groups expressed their feelings and narrated their experiences of listening to his stories.
“Yeh radio ek badi ajeeb cheez hai , kayi faslon ko kum aur kayi rishton ko masboot kar diya….Badi ajeeb cheez hai yeh radio” (Radio is a strange medium. It makes the heart grow fonder as it covers miles with a smile), said Zulekha, talking to this scribe about Neelesh.
The wonderful evening came to a close. Sanchaari proposed a vote of thanks.
Pix by Himanshu Shekhar