Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Even a storyteller needs to listen .....to her own heartbeat

I had learnt a beautiful song in Scotland from an Italian storyteller which went
Rest for a while now, the night is young , Time is short and the road is long.......]
 I experienced this bliss and the feel of the air as I traveled through Tripura and Agartala.....
Tripura is a magical land not because it has the blue waters and castles but because the people are
amazing. There is a sense of calmness and beauty in the way they are. They just seem to be accepting of things that come their way. I wondered why I felt so relaxed despite traveling over 100 kms each
day and also training at the National School of Drama. Went to a beautiful place up the mountains
towards the old capital of Tripura and stopped by the way side deep inside the mountains .Why? I saw a woman weaving and watched her face as she did so. The little children were watching from the windows and she kept weaving a bright orange and red wrap around. I bringing in my urban air asked if I could buy one of them and she answered my colleague Surajid in the Kokporak language one of the main languages here besides Bangla that nothing was for sale. She was weaving it for herself.

Amongst the beautiful sights and sounds that I observed I came across a lane called LOVE STORY
BAZAAR LANE. All the competition, jealousies aggressiveness and envy that the urban environment was trying to create within me seemed to completely mellow down.

The 18 students at the NSD centre were amongst the best I had ever trained so far. Their body language, expressions and innovative thoughts of creating stories was unimaginably wonderful. While all of them included songs music and folklore in their presentations many of them used just the local materials around to tell their tales. There were stories of Why we wear shoes and How the knife became the onion’s mentor when the onion asked why people cried while peeling it?

There were stories of the Red Panda and the Grimms besides the Arabian tales that added to the
repertoire of the story collection.

When I met an Ayurvedic doctor to discuss a little problem we ended up chatting for an hour and half and he narrating tales of people who settled in spaces like Mother Teresa or foreigners in Benaras who just went by their heart and not the head. I came back healed refreshed and alive. Even a storyteller needs stories.

Geeta Ramanujam, September 29,2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Aspects of storytelling in India

                      In India speech and everything it conveyed was considered to be highly sacred, a goddess indeed.  So naturally India has a long history of storytelling. The oral tradition in India was and is a powerful, creative force that expresses the mysteries and miracles of existence, the assorted peculiarities of what it means to be alive. Stories help communities grasp and express in words the true nature of being.
                       Every generation in India for the past 4000 years has been adding to the country’s retentive folk memory. Storytelling has helped preserve ancient aesthetic and cultural artefacts which are intangible in nature. All over India, varied storytelling traditions and styles existed in different languages. Indian storytelling traditions have a symbiotic relationship with the philosophical, sculptural, music, dance and literature traditions of the regions they originate from.
Randy Kloetzli and Alf Hiltebeitel say, 'For a combination of antiquity, volume, and ingenuity, there is nothing like it - so much so that folklorist Theodor Benfry could imagine India as the 'home of storytelling and of tale-types''.
Much that is formative in these oceanic storytelling traditions is anchored in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the two Sanskrit epics.'
            The form and content of most Indian performing art traditions reflect the beliefs and philosophical and spiritual beliefs of their performers. Stories told by tellers in India are often extracted from mythologies, folktales, vedic legends and puranic legends, as well as from the two epics or Itihasas – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Storytelling performances were and are still held in temples, weddings and in social gatherings.
                       Traditionally storytelling has played an important role in education and it was used both to explain abstract philosophical concepts as well as very practical statecraft, administrative and political science or Raja Niti.
                       Again, ethics play an important role in storytelling traditions. The purpose of storytelling is often to expound on morality or dharma, to help audiences distinguish between righteous and unrighteous action. Storytelling has served a social purpose, acting as a medium wherein various difficult social issues such AIDS, dowry etc are presented; hence storytelling almost always reflects social reality and often seeks to improve it.

The bhakti or devotional movement helped spread regional variants of puranic legends among the vernacular languages and to communities who did not have access to such stories. 1850-1950 was the golden age of storytelling India wherein storytelling developed in vernacular languages in the various regions all over the country.  

On storytelling

Storytelling is an integral part of daily life. It happens everywhere – where a group a people come together, to do something, to share something, to just be together. All families are of stories, and it is a fact universally acknowledged that all grandmothers are natural storytellers. Teacher too tell stories to pre-schools and every corporate is full of its own special stories. Newspapers are full of stories – extraordinary and sometimes horrific. Human beings are natural storytellers. It is a natural urge, like breathing perhaps. When people share stories, they make sense of their experiences while rediscovering their identity through the narratives they tell and hear. 
As Walter Benjamin says, 'The storyteller takes what he tells from experience - his own or that reported by others. And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale.'
We listen to stories to experience that special ‘moment of becoming’ when we can learn something about ourselves and the world around us. Storytelling more than any other cultural act produces and transforms our ideas of identity and belonging. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Year Thoughts

There was a big bang ! and that's how I would start my story. The story of a relationship between a Huge Mountain and a tiny bird. Our new year has begun with a big bang. News of women rape and violence. They have always existed but it is good that it came to light after all these years!. How many women suffer in so many ways - verbal abuses,  disrespect, arrogance of gender superiority, class caste rules, religious rituals and many more which the Mother earth bears and we bear as women in innumerable silent ways. Again the biggest promoter of all which makes everything seem OK -films and TV serials playing a huge and massive role in reinforcing them. Slapping beating and raping on screen showed again and again in different languages and styles through songs, item nos. et al. So, where does one begin to address these issues. At the root shoot, bark, flower or fruit levels?
Perhaps if we remember the story of Athena we would remember that when Poseidon got the war horse as a gift for building the first city in the world it was Athena who touched the earth or the chasm from where the horse came up and from there grew the tree Olive tree bearing the fruits of peace. She was then allowed by Zeus to build the first city on Earth based on Peace called Athens. Perhaps that is what we need today. To bridge all the chasms and to begin the Peace crusade which means a lot touching things in silence and yet being able to build cities and bridges. Storytelling could be a bridge.
If we can touch talk and feel the emotions and feelings of one person we have made a great difference. Its so wonderful listening, telling and sharing stories. A great healer indeed and a great need.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Workshop at IIM Bangalore

If seeing is believing, then reading is perhaps accepting!! While I have seen people from all walks of life get trained as storytellers in the past 15 years, it was wonderful to read the first story written by an MBA  student after I conducted a brief workshop on storytelling at IIM, Bangalore. Nothing can be more gratifying for a teacher than watching her students come out with flying colours. Maybe the lush greenery and the peaceful environment too play a role in learning, but nonetheless, the result is there for everyone to see.The story has all the ingredients to make communication a success : twists and turns in the plot, high drama, smooth flow of ideas.
The culmination of this workshop is the story given below which is not only very interesting, but also reflects the importance of communication with a little twist and turn.