Mourning the Dying Art of Storytelling

Stories 2This appeared in Hindustan Times on 26.10.2017

As children, we were brought up on a heavy dose of stories including fables, fairy-tales, anecdotes, and religious/mythical tales by our mother, grandmother, aunts and teachers. They  had a huge treasure trove of stories, one for every occasion and time of the day.

So we listened to cute stories, funny stories, frightening stories, moral stories and what not. We opened our eyes to the likes of ‘The Greedy Dog’ and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ and later ‘Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ But ‘Tammak -Tu’ from Geeta Press, Gorakhpur was an all-time favourite. To our young innocent minds, these stories were not merely fiction or fantasy, but fantastic realities that shaped our innocent world. Our hearts went out to beautiful Cinderella – ‘Oh! the poor lil thing’; and every girl would dream about her own ‘Prince Charming’! Mothers could easily lull their babies to sleep with scary stories of giants and spooky monsters. In summer, sleeping on the roof, we could actually ‘see’ the old woman spinning her wheel in the moon. Such was our faith in our mothers that everything coming from them affected us so deeply.

Storytelling is an age-old legacy that has been coming down from mothers to the children. And when it was our turn to off-load the ‘luggage’ on to the next generation, though well-equipped and well-versed in the art, we felt so beaten and cheated because there were no takers! God has changed the game-plan! In the generation that we encountered, every child was a born ‘Spider Man’ and ‘He-Man’, and every mother felt threatened by these ‘Masters of the Universe,’ who had ganged up to dislodge and dethrone her. Tin-Tin was always in a win-win situation; not to say anything about that Rowling-prowling Harry P(l)otter!

Yet she was not the one to give up and give in so soon, as she wanted to reassure herself that she had tried her best. I know of a mother who, in order to warn her son against dangerous whims, narrated an anecdote about two friends who made a bet to eat twenty bananas in one go to win Rs 5. One of the friends ate twenty bananas, won Rs 5, but died due to overeating. The mother watched the reflective face of the child for his reactions. And right at the moment when she thought she had hit the bull’s eye, the bull squirmed; and pat came the  question she was not prepared for, ‘What happened to the five rupees?’

A friend of mine always felt that children look up to their mothers to learn good things, and that we mothers must not ignore our duty. She dug deep into her own stock of stories to ‘enlighten’ her daughter. She flagged off with ‘The Thirsty Crow’ and then marched on to ‘The Fox and the Crow.’ But the child felt so cheated, and deciding that enough was enough, confronted her mother, ‘Tell me one thing, how come ‘this crow of yours’ was so intelligent in the first story and such a dimwit dodo in the second?’

And we were such nincompoop a class who never asked any questions!

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Posted in Article, Causes by Narinder Jit at October 26th, 2017.
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