Bringing world’s folktales to city kids

Bringing world’s folktales to city kids

Shailaja Sampath at a story-telling session in the city.

Tikki Tikki Tembo might sound like the rhythmic beat of a reggae number, but it is actually a popular Chinese folktale.

As Shylaja Sampath narrates the tale animatedly at a Banashankari park, children seated around her watch with wide-eyed wonderment and a slight smile.

Tikki Tikki Tembo, which tells why the Chinese names are short today, is among the most popular tales of the storyteller.

“Storytelling is one art that is rapidly gaining popularity in the city,” Shylaja says, talking about her initiative ‘Stories in the Park’ through which she tells popular folktales across the globe with the flourish of a performance artist.

Each month, she conducts the storytelling session at the Banashankari park that has brought children and adults alike. Shylaja brings stories to life by blending narration with performance. She has been a storyteller and a theatre person for the past 20 years, and so the skill is almost second nature.

At the end of each story, she teaches children folksongs related to the origin of the story she narrated. The wide array of stories from Japan to Bengal is a treat to both their eyes and ears.

“The best thing is, everyone has their own takeaway from these stories; their own perception about them. This’s beautiful,” she says.

Storytelling is not restricted to children. Shylaja holds sessions for the adults that draw their subjects from short stories of famous authors like Rabindranath Tagore.

“Children may find it harder to interpret those stories,” she says. “For children, it’s always the folktales from India and other countries, besides stories from children’s authors.”

Shylaja is also the founder of Ninety Bold Tales, a performance art-based collective. She brings parents and children together with interactive methods, encouraging them to learn through storytelling.