Storytellers transform life philosophies into tales

Storytellers transform life philosophies into tales

Storytelling sessions can teach social skills to kids.

One of the drawbacks of leading a secluded lifestyle in metro cities is the lack of communication with our neighbours.

“Earlier children used to live in joint families and listen to stories from grandparents but now with most families going nuclear, the concept is changing. That is where storytellers take centre stage,” says Shreya Biswas from Katharangam. Mainly working with spastic kids and children with disabilities, she works closely with special educators to cater to the learning needs of children with disabilities.

Shreya says that kids learn social behaviour through observation. In a storytelling session, says Shreya, the performer and audience interact, children, are drawn into the story so much so that they become a part of the story.

Many children with disabilities are wheelchair-bound and studying is a hassle.

Big and complicated lessons are reduced to tiny bits of stories that are easy to understand and learn.

“Universally, what makes us human is our ability to tell stories and consume stories,” says Ameen Haque founder of Storywallahs, a storytelling organisation. Ameen began his career in an advertising firm, but chose to turn his passion for storytelling into a full-time profession. With a team of ardent storytellers, this group tells stories under trees, in cafes, at literary events and gatherings. They break into a story anywhere where there is an interesting audience. 

Most storytellers point out that the experience associated with listening to stories is different compared to a dull presentation of facts.

People forget facts but remember stories. Storytellers observe that the ancestors were smart enough to figure this out. They turned complicated life philosophies into stories. The greatest epics ‘Mahabharatha’ and ‘Ramayana’ are stories woven within stories, containing wisdom that has been passed down generations. 

Ameen says the wisdom of Ayurveda was passed orally in the form of stories from one generation to another. Printed books are a recent phenomenon, a major portion of Indian history is recorded from word of mouth, he says. By telling these stories we get to know about each other. “When we listen to different stories from different communities, we discover a shared commonality through stories,” adds Ameen.

Important metaphors are conveyed through fables. Animal stories are constructed for humans, says Ameen.

“When we say an owl is wise or a fox is cunning, we cannot empirically evaluate this. Being wise or cunning is a human quality,” says Ameen. The complexity of human emotions is conveyed through carefully constructed stories.

“Corporate businesses also need to tell better stories that people can connect with. Fair & Lovely is telling an old story that success will come to you through fairness of skin, which doesn’t connect anymore,” says Ameen, who works closely with brands and helps them construct the story that they want to portray.

Storytelling is a process, a ritual with different ingredients. There is a setting, a storyteller and an audience.

“The storyteller is the least important,” says Ameen. “The story and listener matters. Setting doesn’t matter very much as long as the story is powerful and it’s relevant to the listener,” Ameen says.

With the advent of globalisation, our stories are disappearing, languages are being overtaken but efforts are being made by storytellers everywhere to conserve and convey the wisdom through celebration of stories.