Published: 21st October 2017
Hey, it's story time: Meet these four Bengalureans who will make you fall in love with the art of storytelling
"Once upon a time..." — Let these storytellers bring back the memories of your childhood while you learn a few tricks of the modern day storytelling
Turns out, Bengaluru is a city full of stories and storytellers. And they have a lot to tell you. EdEx takes you on a dramatic yet subtle story tip. Are you all ears?
Storywallahs: Ameen Haque speaks his mind
Once upon a time, there lived a little boy named Ameen Haque. His mind was full of thoughts and ideas but when he thought of speaking his mind, he stammered. But then, he had a super mom. She enrolled little Ameen in a lot of after-school creative classes apart from speech therapy. Of them, Ameen struck a cord with theatre. He inquisitively searched for new stories every day. Even when he had a regular day job, his evenings were dedicated to stories. Poetry, cinema, theatre, photography - he explored them all just for stories. Almost a couple of decades later, he found his true calling. He started telling stories for a living. And he would tell them to everyone- kids, adults, corporates, and everyone would listen to Ameen. And in a world of stories, Ameen lived happily ever after.
I was an advertiser by day and a theatre artist by evening. But aren't they both serving the same purpose of telling stories?
Ameen Haque of Storywallahs
He didn't really have a Eureka moment, but for someone who knew the power of stories in inspiring people, he knew that he had to do something where stories could be used to educate children, students, and even entrepreneurs. Hence, storywallahs was founded in 2012.
Their work is very diverse. "For most people, their favourite subject corealtes to their favourite teachers. Teachers have the power to make a subject likable and storytelling imparts that power to them," says Ameen. Hence, he started training teachers. He, in fact, started storytelling for startups and business storytelling, educating people in raising funds using stories.
Wait for the best part. Everyone knows the discomfort that students and teachers go through when it comes to sex education. The reason? There is no proper curriculum for this particular topic. Here's were storywallahs took the cake! They developed a curriculum that would teach sex education through stories. "Here, we go beyond reproduction and anatomy and go deeper into gender roles, stereotypes, skin colour, curiosity and experimentation," he says.
That's not it. There's therapeutic storytelling and counseling. Also, they work with autistic kids. Stories are quite powerful, aren't they?
Kathalaya: Lend your ear to Geeta's Ramanujam's story
Once upon a time there lived a little girl named Geeta Ramanujam. Everyday, her father told her a different story. He would use music and different props to add colour to the stories. Little Geeta just loved it. The love for stories grew up with her as well. She wanted to tell stories to more people, just like the way her father narrated it to her. And so, she became a teacher. Owing to her narrative skills, students loved her. Why not become a storyteller, she thought and she did exactly that. As the years passed by, she thought she must pass on the art to others. So, she started a school that teaches stories. And she lived happily ever after in that school full of stories.
Storytelling is not at all remunerative. But I wanted to change it and train people so that they can be independent performers
Geeta Ramanajum of Kathalaya
Talk of storytellers in Bengaluru and not a mention of Geeta and Kathalaya? How is it even possible? Geeta is one of the first storytellers in the city who started of 37 years ago. Years later she founded Kathalaya in 1996, a school that trains the young and the old to be professional storytellers. From providing workshop certification to a diploma, Kathalaya has given birth to a lot of new generation storytellers.
Recently, she has launched a new course called 27 different ways of thinking through stories. "When you repeat something creative, that isn't creative. So how does someone get the spark? How to think of something new?" asks Geeta. So she started working on the mental blocks which according to her arises out of the lack of creativity. That precisely is what she is trying to solve through her workshop.
So why did Geeta start this innovative school in the 90s, you may ask. She has the perfect answer. "Storytelling is not at all remunerative. But I wanted to change it and train people so that they can be independent performers," she says. She has 12 learning centres in India right now.
Her students are always different. She remembers how she even trained a parliament speaker once. Every day is a new experience for her. A new mission to learn different ways to think and innovate herself.
Bangalore Storytelling Society: Let Vikram Sridhar tell you the story of him and his storyteller friends
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Vikram Shridhar. Vikram was very smart since childhood and was extremely bright in studies. At the same time, he loved stories too. In fact, he loved them so much that the subjects in school were also stories for him. In fact, one day, when the Maths teacher taught him trigonometry, all he could imagine were giant dragonflies flying in straight lines creating angles. So what did this little boy do when he grew up? He became an engineer! But the love for stories wasn't ready to leave him. And then one day, he quit his job and became a full-time storyteller. He looked around and found a few like-minded people and together they formed a society. Together they conducted meetups quite often and people would gather around to listen to their stories. Listening to stories and narrating them, Vikram lived happily ever after.
We don't share personal stories, but do the oral storytelling. These can be known tales or folk stories. More like what you saw in the film Tamasha. it was also a revival for most of us
Vikram Sridhar of Bangalore Storytelling Society
Anyone in Bengaluru would have wondered what happens in Atta Galata in Koramangala on weekends. You can see happy faces all around there. If the curiosity prompts you to take a peek inside, you'll surely grab a chair and sit down there for a couple of hours. Wonder what is happening? The Bangalore Story Telling Society conducts most of its sessions there.
Realising that there is no organised body for oral storytellers in the country, a group of nine Bengalurian storytellers founded the society in 2013. "We don't share personal stories, but do the oral storytelling. These can be known tales or folk stories. More like what you saw in the film Tamasha. it was also a revival for most of us," says Vikram, who is one among the founding members.
Anybody can come and listen to these sessions for free. Öurs is one of the longest-running meetups in the world. We keep it going, no matter how small the crowd is," says Vikram. Every meetup usually has a different theme.
Describing the power of stories, Vikram takes us back to a particular meetup, where most of the audience were middle-aged people. One of them told him, "I look forward to these meetups so much because this is the only place where I could be myself without getting judged."
That is how wonderful stories are. You just need to open your eyes and ears and be yourself. You'll fall in love with them.
Story ki Bori: It's Swati Kakodkar's turn now
Once upon a time, there was a young mother named Swati Kakodkar. She loved her little son so much that she quit her high paying corporate job to take care of him. She wanted the best for her baby boy, but at the same time, she thought it wasn't a bad idea to go back to work. And then one day, she took her son to a storytelling session, so that the little one could listen to a few stories that she couldn't tell. But more than the baby, the mother fell in love with the stories. She was excited to narrate stories to the little ones she knew. And guess what? She did exactly that. That way, Swati got back to work and got to narrate more and more stories to her son and to other kids. Then, she lived happily ever after.
I started out as a storyteller in the Christmas of 2013. I didn't want to go back to a corporate job. I gave it a shot and it turned out well. Later, I did my certification in storytelling from Kathalaya
Swati Kakodkar of Story ki Bori
Swati Kakodkar's days are the busiest. She runs from one group of tiny tots to meet the other lot in Bengaluru, to excite them with more and more new stories. She absolutely has no complaints. In fact, she is very much in love with the job. "I started out as a storyteller in the Christmas of 2013. I didn't want to go back to a corporate job. I gave it a shot and it turned out well. Later, I did my certification in storytelling from Kathalaya," says Swati, who runs Story ki Bori. She regularly caters to 20 children and sees new children coming up every day.
"When you're in a corporate job, your milestones are different from the ones of a storyteller. So is the satisfaction and the kind of success. I've had parents come up to me saying how their child who was afraid of speaking up in public got rid of her fear after attending my sessions. That is when I realised that I'm doing something good," says Swati.
In the years that followed, Swati also uncovered a hidden side of her- the one of a writer. Is she happy right now? Of course! And what about the listeners? They're happy as well.