“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.”
Storytelling has evolved into many things today- a profession, an experience, a platform and an art. It has moved beyond ‘once upon a time’ and explored waters not trod before, but what still fascinates me is how stories have always mapped our lives. From ‘The King and his 7 sons’, when you didn’t seem to understand the logic, to talking memories with someone beloved; a story may have beguilingly shaped the way you think.
What may have started as cavemen’s drawings, stories have certainly built themselves a stage, leaving a mark on people’s lives. From drama behind the screen as shadows that spoke, to moving pictures on a screen, we enjoy entertainment and embrace it in all its different forms. Storytelling, is one such form that is exciting and delightful. We listen to people speak about that one piece of a puzzle, that is life. We listen to their experiences and learn, and we connect to their stories and feel them.
I’ve learned that bears are wonderful beings through Mowgli, that not all lions are scary through Panchatantra tales, that Tenali Ramakrishna was one hell of a court jester. There are stories that leave an impact, and a few that instill that impact. There is storytelling that touches the soul, and there are storytellers who steal your soul. You seem to be drawn into their world when they speak while drafting the tiniest details as you listen. These short, funny, sad, witty and interesting stories have given us villains we dare not come across, friends we’ve admired all our life, companions who seem to exist with us and characters we’ve come to relate to through our different stages of life, as we’ve jumped over a few hurdles and glided through a few.
There are now platforms across India that celebrate this art. From conducting casual Open Mics around cities inviting people to share their stories, or conducting Poetry Slams at events to prompt writers to showcase their poetry, storytelling has been weaved into our lives in its own uncanny way. Many platforms today conduct workshops in cultural hubs and also professional environments helping people grow, one story at a time.
Toastmasters Club is an international organisation that engages in team development and helps employees communicate effectively in a variety of organisations. Anyone above 18 years can opt to be a member, and if qualified, they can also conduct workshops as a ‘toastmaster’ themselves. They are generally extempore platforms that push the speaker to speak his/her mind. Tale Tellers Troupe is also a recent organisation that started in Hyderabad in 2016. Their Facebook information session states ‘TTTI is a platform to perfect the art of storytelling, overcome stage fear, practice effective communication and become POWERFUL ORATORS & INSPIRING LEADERS!’. They conduct workshops engaging children, adults and professionals in various places across the city. One of their famous sessions is the “midnight storytelling” event that literally starts at 12am and goes on till the morning with strangers facing their fears and sharing wonderful memories while making new ones. With their vision to create a ‘World without stage fear by 2026’, they proudly say “Aapki kahani. Aaphiki zubaani!”
Kommune is another such platform, which extensively widened its reach through YouTube. Started as a small hub of strangers sharing stories, it has now become a national platform for this art. They have now conducted the ‘Spoken Fest’ in Mumbai twice, celebrating this art and showcasing talent from across the nation. They conduct workshops and performance sessions based on a variety of themes to encourage the storytellers to be creatively original. They are extending their hubs to cities other than Mumbai and have now set up teams in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Their current Facebook picture reads ‘Great art, great artists’, which couldn’t be more true.
Stories play a rather significant role in one’s life than one might think. They teach us the untold when we are unwilling to learn and show us the forbidden when we fear the change that it brings with it. Even now, as I write about storytelling and stories, various characters and their mysteries revolve in my head reminding we what I’ve forgotten and also what is to be remembered.
Picture Courtesy- The New York Times