On a dark cold night, or a warm summer afternoon; in a cracked voice and through wrinkled lips, she would tell us stories. Stories that would transport us to another realm; where the kings and knights would come alive with valor, vigor and passion. The bunch of us huddled at her feet would stare in amazement as rays of light streaming through the silvers of her hair and she would wail like the queen in distress or croon like the lusty lover. One moment, she was the valiant hero, another she was the galloping horse, within the batting of an eyelid she was the wicked witch and she was also the rustling leaves and the sand beneath the cow’s hooves… That was Grandma and her wonderful tales about heroic deeds.
I am sure that all of us from my time and before have regaled in the luxury of awesome story telling sessions. If not every night, every summer holiday for sure! Eight in every ten stories told came from our ancient epics- if not the Ramayana and Mahabharata; it was from the Panchatantra and Jataka for sure. The joy of listening to the talking jackals and crows; the lofty morals so simply told; the thrilling stories spun around our day to day lives! Inspired by these lively sessions and the one-off puppet shows, we would pick up the highly illustrated Panchatantra or Aesop’s Fables and read.
Just around the corner… Right now
There is dim lighting in a heavily curtained room- day and night passing on without being perceived. The monotonous whine of the air conditioning goes unnoticed as the 32 inch wide screen LCD Tv comes alive. At the center of all the action are: slim and sexy women with green shields and blonde hair; toned and muscular men with hi-tech gadgets as wrist bands and cars that make one drool. Smart, sharp super heroes now fight high tech villains. With sub woofers and surround sound, the fight seems real. The crisp sound of the click of a button, the sharp lightening ray attack, the quick responsive defense, deflecting the fatal rays of light- all of this happening atop a plush sky scrapper along the horizon of a fast growing city.
The tale is the same, of good triumphing over evil. Only, told differently… the voice that reaches us is the digitized drone via the Television- sometimes heavily accented, some other times, plain boring. The poor imitation of the horses gallop is replaced by a crisp, clear sound of bikes staring up and that’s no mean achievement! But forgive me; the digital signals don’t always carry with them the depth of emotion and the toothless grin of the story teller. That besides, the talking jackals and smiling flowers are replaced by – the new idols some Shin Chan or Ben 10 or something like that…
The books are laid to rest where they would gather lots of dust and the advent of accessories and toys and of course 2 BHK apartments, replaced the joys of climbing up trees and running and catching. The lofty ideals lay buried and are sometimes skimmed at the surface, but hardly ever probed.
Essentially, the art of storytelling died a premature and stifled death. With it went a huge chunk of culture, tradition and every child’s individual and unique fairyland that stemmed out of their vivid imagination. I’ve always loved to listen to stories… and when Grandma would tell them, she would showcase the soul of the story- go way beyond the words. Spring the story to life- just the way that classical dancers do!
It pains me when I see that children of today, in a world so full of opportunities and talents, are bereft of something as simple as a story telling session. Many years down the line when they design their own houses or gardens or clothes, it simply wouldn’t stand out as different… after all we’ve captured their imagination in a color photograph or a 3-D animation movie… we clipped their flight of creativity even before the wings sprouted. We never even gave them a chance to build their own unique house/ palace/ dinner set/ menu card!
It is time we encouraged ourselves to think beyond the glamorous visuals shown on Tv; thought out-of-the-box; started flipping as many pages as we would channels; played the games in real life rather than a simulation experience in 3-D… In short, it’s high time we added life to our living, adventure to our lives and then sit back on a lazy Sunday afternoon and tell the story so well, that every one of the listeners would live the story, enjoy it, be part of the story and create an image so unique and precious that it could be dipped and gold and stored for posterity…
Image Source : h.koppdelaney