Published: 29th May 2021
Two stortyellers in Bengaluru are getting kids to learn about sustainability, nature on a 'micro' level, during lockdown
Vikram and Sarita believe that children find joy in mundane things. That's how the duo developed a proper structure around this micro world at home to perform these story sessions
When Vikram Sridhar and Sarita Nair were brainstorming ways to help kids who are stressed and stuck within four walls during the lockdown, storytelling is all that came to mind. It's only natural because both of them are professional storytellers who have a shared interest in history, heritage, nature and animals. So, the duo started a unique online storytelling session called Srishti: The Magic of the Mikros in the hope to connect nature and heritage.
Before we tell you how they've blended nature and heritage, let us tell you about the duo first. Vikram has been doing storytelling sessions on the queens of India, Mahatma Gandhi, Indian mythology and so on both children and adults. Similarly, Sarita started Heritage Stories and Performing Arts in April 2020 — an initiative with the objective to celebrate cultural heritage and share and transfer this knowledge through stories and the performing arts. Together, this duo has a vast knowledge of Indian heritage and history and they've done it all through intense research, interactions with theatre artists and personalities and visits to historical monuments.
Vikram Sridhar, Storyteller and theatre artist
Now let's get back to how the duo connects nature and heritage — two very different subjects. Vikram explains, "Currently, we are all confined to our houses because of the pandemic. More than the adults, it is the children who are stressed because they have nowhere to go and there's not much physical activity as before. While these sessions are best done in open spaces in the midst of nature, we felt that they could be performed online too because we are surrounded by the micro world within our homes. We may not have tigers or elephants but wildlife can be a bit different with spiders and cockroaches too. Kids love SpiderMan in movies but when they see a spider at home, they are not excited." This lead the duo to connect with different micros including food, textiles and so on.
On the first day of the five-day session, Vikram and Sarita dig deep into the living micros like insects in the house. On the second day, they delve into the micros of the heritage world — it might be an old antique vessel or even a wall clock that once belonged to their grandparents. The third day is all about the food on our plates, this even helps them understand food waste, sustainability, composting and so on. The fourth day is when they talk about the micro plastics at home and how we consume them. On the last day, children are divided into groups and they come up with a performance. Skits, monologues and works of art — these kids can express what they've learnt in their own way.
Sarita along with her 12-year-old daughter during one of the storytelling sessions
Vikram believes that children find joy in mundane things. That's how the duo developed a proper structure around this micro world at home to perform these story sessions. He says, "We bring in the element of art into this and tell stories. We deliver these sessions over five days and on each day, the session is for 90 minutes. There are only ten children in every session so that that they can connect and interact with each other well. Before we start our sessions, Sarita talks to the parents and gets information about each child. This is to ensure that we don't touch upon some sensitive issues in our performances. We prepare 50 per cent of the content to be delivered and the rest of this magic happens when the children get involved."
Vikram says, "We are not teaching the kids but we're facilitating learning by giving information that is not in their textbooks. We cannot change the kids but we can trigger them. These sessions help teenagers because they are going through a transition period and it is the metamorphosis stage for them. The sessions will help them open up about their mental health and the complexities they go through. We believe that if you understand the micro world, you will gradually understand the micro emotions. That was the crux of how we evolved the magic of the micros."