My Storytelling Journey...



March 20, 2015  was World Storytelling Day. 

I started writing this post to share the excitement about my participation at a recent storytelling event.  All along I've been thinking about it as my new passion.  But then as memories flooded in, I realized that storytelling is something I have been involved with all my life!    

Formalized storytelling is very popular around the world today.  The stories we've heard from our grandparents and parents are now ‘performed’ on stage!

Storytelling is not about reading from a book, but about knowing the story well enough to present it in your own words.  Unlike reading, there is constant eye contact with the audience and the teller invokes interaction to keep them involved in the story.  There is plenty more to share about storytelling, but perhaps I will create a separate post about it.

My earliest recollections of storytelling go back to when I was 3 or 4.  Somewhat vaguely I remember my grandmother sharing stories during meals which were by the window!  It is somewhat a tradition in India to entertain young children (usually fussy eaters) through stories and songs at mealtimes.  Sadly, grandmothers have today been replaced by TVs, IPads and mobile phones!

An old family pic
I also listened eagerly to my mother’s stories and still do today when she shares popular tales and her own stories with my children now! 

My father was a very busy man.  But when time permitted, he would give in to persistent requests from my brother and me and sweep us off into a world of kings, demons and magical happenings!  Interestingly, all his stories began in a similar manner – Once upon a time, there was a king.  One day, as he was hunting in the forest...  But thereafter each story turned into a unique one with plenty of action and suspense that kept us wanting to hear more and more!  My father still tells stories - about his life experiences, some of which are as exciting as the stories he made up!

As a kid, I hit a new milestone in my storytelling journey when my brother and his friends started “The Fun Club” (with secret meetings and passwords, thanks to Enid Blyton!).  There were no other girls in the neighbourhood for me to play with, so I tagged along with him and he graciously accepted me as a member of the Club.  Assuming the role of illustrator and editor, my brother compiled stories contributed by the Club members.  One of my stories was ‘published’ too!  On one occasion, the Club even invited parents to our terrace for a skit performance.  Bedsheets on clothes-lines were our stage curtains!  Thus we assumed the role of storytellers – by writing and performing!

Several years later, I engaged in storytelling as a kids volunteer at the Troy Public Library in Michigan.  A professional puppeteer needed a couple of helpers and I was lucky to be one of them!  We practiced and performed ‘The Three Little Pigs’.  The puppets were quite big and it took me a while to get the hang of making them work.  We stood behind a four or five tier puppet stage, coordinating each puppet’s movements with the tape that provided the audio (yes, tapes were still in then!).  It was a tremendously enjoyable experience – something I had never done before! 

With the arrival of my children, I went back to fairy tales, nursery rhymes and other forgotten fables as I read to/with them.  Both are now avid readers.  The local library is one of their favourite haunts!

Deepavali 2008
Deepavali 2005
As the children grew, so did their capabilities.  My dear friend, Mamata and I put together scripts for children to perform as skits during the annual Deepavali gatherings.  After several practice sessions, it was a pleasure to watch them perform on stage with much ease and vigour.  We did re-enactments of stories from books, the Panchatantra, even a scene from the Ramayana with a relevant Bollywood song!  


Article in local paper about initiative 
Back in India, as part of my early childhood training in Mumbai, my colleagues and I performed pre-Deepavali puppet shows at different early learning schools in the area.  We made our own puppets and arrived at a script based on our pre-defined goal of encouraging a healthy, firecracker-free Deepavali.  Our efforts even made it to the local weekly!

My first experience at Fr. Agnel's, 2011.
A writer-friend, Shyamala, invited me to do a storytelling session at a Literary Festival in a prominent school in Navi Mumbai.  I picked a story about chameleons (“Colour Colour Kamini” by Tulika Books). My audience were first-graders, so I included repetitive lines and created songs based on familiar tunes.  In the second half of the session, we split up into teams and played word games.

Just Books workshop in 2012
In the following years, I had the pleasure of conducting a few storytelling sessions at the local Just Books library.  The children enjoyed making their own puppets and enacting stories they had just heard or already knew. The "Three Little Pigs" was a favourite!  

Two years later in Singapore, my friend, Anu and I did a few sessions together for the children in her condominium.  I enjoyed coordinating and planning with her.  Sadly, she moved back to India.  But she always inspired me with her chirpy and upbeat nature.  Thanks to her, I joined Storyline, a group of aspiring storytellers who meet once a month to share stories.  Roger Jenkins, a professional storyteller, mentored the aspirants for our ‘performance’ on March 18 at the Marine Parade Community Library.  Roger is a fantastic storyteller with a remarkable ability to share stories and manipulate his voice and facial expressions.  There's so much to learn from him!

In action at the MPCL


The aspirants and the mentor

My storytelling journey has been one of learning and self-discovery.  I've taken a long, long time to get to where I am.  Though I think my destination is around the corner, I wish my journey will never end!







         

Comments

  1. Very Happy to see this Vidhya! Cheers and best wishes as always!

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  2. All journey's are entertaining. So was this one! Keep up the good work!
    - Mamata

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