The Art of Storytelling

Posted in articles, guest on March 21st, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

All of us must have dipped into nostalgia some time or the other with Jagjit Singh’s immortal ghazal, ‘Yeh Daulat bhi le lo’.

I particularly remember these lines from the song with a lot of fondness.

Muhalle ki sabse nishaani puraani
Woh budhiya jise bachche kehte the naani
Woh naani ki baaton mein pariyon ka dera
Bhulaye nahin bhool sakta hai koi
Woh chhoti si raatein, woh lambi kahani

The oldest relic of the neighbourhood
Whom children called grandmother
Those fairies that dwelt in her stories
Those short nights, those long stories)

The oldest living memory most of us would have is sitting on a grandparent’s lap and listening to stories. Of how they brought alive epics, mythological tales, the Panchatantra or the Jataka tales… Of how they sang small poems and songs… And how you squealed in delight.

There are no better story-tellers than grandparents, especially grandmothers! (and no! I am not being gender-biased here) Wisdom, experience, love and affection all merged together to bring the sweetest tales ever. And those are the ones that will be passed on from generation to generation… along with all the emotions associated with them.

Some of the best story-tellers in my lives have been grandmothers and teachers. I remember very well a teacher in school who read every poem and story in the best sing-song voice possible. She modulated her voice to suit every emotion expressed in a story, the humming of a bird, the roaring of a lion or the sad wail of a bird hurt. We smiled, sang, danced, laughed and cried along… Such was the power of her story-telling.

On another note, I also vividly remember sitting huddled around an armchair with other kids as my neighbour told us ghost stories. Most often, these stories were told during dark, rainy evenings when the wind howled, the frogs croaked and the pitter-patter of the huge raindrops made ‘eerie’ sounds. Perfect backdrop for ghost stories indeed! His voice rose from low to high pitch, going back and forth as the ghost went on doing ‘macabre’ things and we screamed and even took the stories back home, often reliving them through nightmares!

Storytelling is a fine art. The purpose of which is not only to introduce information, enrapture or create excitement in a child. A good story-teller makes the child think, assimilate and carry the thoughts forward. He/She lets the child loose in the world of imagination but still keeps him grounded to reality.

How can you tell good stories? Here’s what personal experience has taught me.

  • Come down to the level of your child. Start reading aloud from books as early as when your child is eight months old.
  • Bring in a strong element of drama. Use different voices for different characters. Sing a few lines in between. The kids will love it.
  • Try to tie a moral to each story as subtly as possible.
  • These days, children of any age hate advice. If you must dispense advice, do it without pontificating.
  • Use loads of examples. Dip into history. Share an amusing anecdote. Relive your own childhood memories.
  • Make up your own stories. If a child does not like tomatoes, revolve a story around the world of lycopene (that make tomatoes what they are!). Call him Mr. Lycopene and tell the story in his own words.
  • Allow the kids to participate in the story-telling as much as possible. Let them interrupt or squeal in joy. In short, let them be. You could also begin a story and encourage them to take it forward, asking each child to add his own thoughts. This gives imagination free rein and makes the child proud of his/herself.

Ultimately, a good story-teller is like a good actor. He has to sing, dance, cry and emote for his audience. And the best part? The response is immediate. Nothing, I repeat, nothing rivals the delight of children who have loved a story. The closest in competition would be the instant hugs! These are things I’d never trade for anything else in this world!

Happy story-telling, folks!

Guest blog post from Ms. Rekha Baala:
“Rekha Baala has been a word junkie all her life. She has been in the writing business for the past 16 years and works as deputy editor for a magazine in Muscat. She muses, ponders, rants and raves at her Blog

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