Irrespective of the land you belong to you must have grown up listening to bedtime stories. When alphabets were alien to us - our mums and dads (and if we were fortunate our grandmas and grandpas) were our storytellers. Often, they narrated tales without a book in hand. My granny’s favourite tale (and mine too) was one with a princess, who happened to look, talk, and laugh like me. Rarely did she feel the need to refer to a book. She’d close her eyes for a minute and the characters would start talking to us.
When we were ‘big’ enough we began to request for books with fewer pictures and more words. Mum and dad would now take turns to read out to us. I remember them using a ‘story’ voice for every tale, be it that from the world of Panchtantra, Noddy or Snow White. The giggle of a child, song of the bird or the growl of a bear – they brought the stories alive, until my sister and I fell asleep. With school library cards, many things changed. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley, and Famous Five came into our lives. We’d be asked to hurry up with dinner if we were to read a book before the lights were switched off.
Stories, until date, continue to be a part of me. But, storytelling isn’t.
A couple of months ago, I attended a storytelling session in the city. If I remember correctly, it was called katha, which translates to a fable, story. We listened rapt in attention, as we sat in a circle in an empty hall. The stories were from around the world, a few tellers shared theirs dramatically, others simply told. The books were missing, even when a few chose to share novel plots from their recent reads. We looked at each other, as we ‘read’ — sharing the excitement, suspense, and agony of the teller and character. And that is what makes storytelling a lovely human interaction experience. We saw more than the words on the page —we imagined together, the teller and the listener.
It’s said that facts go to our brains, while stories go to our hearts. It’s also believed that storytelling is the best and oldest form of education. It is a great tool to pass down cultures and traditions to future generations. Perhaps, it can also help one become a better listener. All these positives are encouraging even to find out time to tell and learn better stories.
True, our parents may no longer be tucking us in bed and maybe our kids too will feel embarrassed to fall asleep in our laps over a story, but we could still revive the tradition. Sitting around a dining table, we could weave a tale stemmed from a day at work or an article we read online. It is possible that storytelling may never regain the status of communal activity, but we could add a spark to our conversations.
For, there is a difference between reading and telling. For, we’ll always need storytelling.