New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) “India has a rich tradition of storytelling; it has been a part for centuries”, was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Sunday message to listeners of ‘Mann Ki Baat’, as he urged Indians to revive this tradition as they stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic and cited examples of the best in the profession of storytelling.
One such person is Vikram Sridhar who works in the field of storytelling.
“Storytelling is not a matter of joke. This is a tradition of India,” agrees Sridhar while speaking to IANS.
This Bengaluru-based storyteller says the this art (his niche is telling stories on Mahatma Gandhi) becomes all the more significant when many students can’t go to school and are virtually caught at home due to the pandemic. “We are adapting this old tradition to connect with the new generation,” is how he sums up as the success mantra. He says the challenge is not just to connect with the new generation but to sustain the relationship though this oral tradition.
While Modi lauded him and many others in the profession like Geeta Ramanujan who runs a website of storytelling by the name of ‘Kathalaya’ or Sri Vidya Veer Raghavan of Chennai, Sridhar tells us why the art of narrating stories that is so intrinsic to India, is dying in the first place.
“There is no money in this profession. It reminds me of Madhavan’s character from ‘3 Idiots’ where it was a clash between the heart’s calling versus financial stability.” However, he adds that it’s the heart that he or any storyteller touches that makes them go on.
Far away from the lush Bengaluru where Sridhar is all energised after being named by India’s Prime Minister, Aashima Mishra is also trying to hold onto this lost art of storytelling in Noida, a suburb of the national capital. She insists, “We are because of our stories”. Mishra gave a personal example of how she told both her son and daughters not to speak to strangers through stories. “If you tell kids simply don’t do this, they will not listen. Stories form a part of a kid’s growing up,” she insists.
So what brought Mishra into storytelling in the first place? “When I saw I could change the lives of my own children through storytelling, I wanted to touch many more lives. Ever since, I started telling stories to kids from the age bracket of 2 years to 10 years,” she says. Unlike websites, she interacts with kids personally in smaller batches. Mishra says while it brings a personality change in kids, the interest in stories will eventually drive them to read books as well.
When Modi lamented that “there are issues with some of the families while some have lost touch with their values,” he invited Indian families to get involved in this lost art of telling and listening to stories. He also highlighted Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s storytelling tradition which is called Villu Pattu to invite Indian families to take similar efforts, from all across.
Rituparna Ghosh, a story teller from Noida, tends to agree with Modi. “We don’t even have time to listen to stories because we live by one story throughout the day.” As Indian internet moves towards 5G, trains set to make way for bullet trains and roads turn into expressways, the slow-paced patient hearing of a story has become a casualty.
“Storytelling is a powerful tool. It impacts people’s lives. Stories makes you think and introspect,” adds Ghosh.
As the request to reinvent this lost art of huddling together to listen to and tell stories comes from the Prime Minister, individuals like Vikram Sridhar, Aashima Mishra and Rituparna Ghosh are a happy lot.