It’s no exaggeration to say that storytelling is as old as human civilisation itself. Perhaps, we’ll never be able to point to a time in the history of mankind and call it the dawn of storytelling. However, what we know is that the practice of storytelling began when man learned to communicate. Be it through symbols, signs or words, man told stories to his peers. They were fairy tales, fables, legends, epics, myths, and stories of heroes, war and adventure.
With time, stories became an integral part of his culture and society, passed down from generation to generation, each time narrated with a different spin according to changing scenarios. Through these stories, he imparted knowledge and narrated his experiences. While some stories inspired him, some others ignited the spark of imagination, transporting him to the world of wonder. Millennia later, it’s the same sense of wonder and imagination stories evoke. In a quest to understand this ancient tradition, Soulveda spoke to Geeta Ramanujam, storyteller and founder of Bangalore-based Kathalaya Trust and The International Academy of Storytelling. Presenting excerpts of a conversation, where she talks about the relevance of storytelling in the day and age of Instagram stories and her work in reviving storytelling in India.
Stories play a crucial role in one’s formative years. Do you think an individual is shaped by the stories they grow up listening to?
A storyteller creates his listener. In effect, the storyteller tells his listener, ‘In my story I determine you; for a moment—the duration of the story—your reason for being is the story itself; for the sake of the story, you are. In my story, I create a state of being in which you are immediately involved.’ The primary object of the story is the realisation of wonder and delight. In the presence of stories, we have an affirmation of the human spirit. It is a just and wondrous celebration.
An individual is definitely shaped by what they constantly listen to from the time they are in their mother’s womb. The aural and oral traditions are a result of this. This had a great impact on my formative years as technology was still a far-fetched idea in the 60s and 70s.
How do stories enhance the sense of imagination in children?
Tell children a story and they listen with their whole being. Lead children to touch and understand a grasshopper, a rock, a flower, a ray of sunlight and you begin to establish a connection between children and their surroundings. Have them look at a tree—feel it, smell it, taste its sap, study its many parts, and how they work. This is the power of imagination. A child gets to see the entire story when an effective narrator or raconteur of tales transmits the textures of a story.