Published: 07th October 2020
How Chennai storyteller Srividya Veeraraghavan was spotted by PM Modi and featured on Mann Ki Baat
We speak to Srividya Veeraraghavan, a Chennai-based storyteller who recently popped up in the Prime Minister’s monthly address Mann Ki Baat
It was almost an ordinary Sunday for Srividya Veeraraghavan. Almost. She was going about her day as she usually would when around 11.30 am, she received a call and someone told her that her photo was on television. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had singled her out in his monthly Mann Ki Baat programme. Why? Well, Srividya is a Chennai-based storyteller who specialises in tales about Indian culture. Through her initiative Story Train, she is telling stories to people of all ages — bringing forth Indian cultural sensibilities to the global stage. And that is what the Prime Minister and the Mann Ki Baat team were most impressed by. “It was a shock. I had no idea that they would mention my name and show my videos and photo on the screen. It was a huge motivator and reaffirmed that what I am doing has immense value,” says Srividya.
Indeed, a jubilant Srividya is more motivated than ever before. These days she can be seen conducting storytelling sessions online and in several virtual events. “Ever since the lockdown began and all my shows got cancelled, I took the initiative online. I love doing live sessions on my Facebook page and did several during the lockdown,” she says. Srividya is also a trainer. She has been conducting workshops ever since she began Story Train in 2016. “Story Train is focused on oral storytelling. There are no props or puppets. The entire act is based on voice, gestures and words.” adds Srividya.
Before she began Story Train, however, Srividya worked in human resources at a large corporate firm. “I decided to quit my job and begin something that I was very passionate about. Stories have always been a part of my life since childhood,” she says. Srividya went on to complete a short course on storytelling and once she did that, Story Train was born! “The name itself has a lot of meaning. I am the engine and the listeners are the passengers who will be passing on these stories from one another. I also train others to become storytellers. The word has a dual purpose,” explains Srividya.
Srividya’s stories are for people of all ages. She has conducted sessions and workshops in preschools, old-age homes and everywhere in between. “I have told stories in public libraries and other forums. There, I can’t expect that people of only one age group will come. Thus, I prefer to tell stories that are relevant for people of all ages,” says Srividya. And what kind of stories does she usually tell? “I love to tell stories that depict Indian culture, especially those with a lot of folklore. These are the tales that I’ve heard since childhood. I also narrate stories on mythology and fables,” she adds. Srividya has also created her own stories. “When you’re in the middle of a session and the audience keeps demanding more, sometimes you have to improvise,” says Srividya.
Looking ahead, Srividya wants to open a space dedicated exclusively to storytelling. “I had been renting out spaces to conduct sessions or training workshops. I’d like to create my own space, an academy of sorts in the future and train those who are interested in the art,” she adds.