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Updated: September 5, 2012 20:21 IST

A new taste of your city

SOMA BASU
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A view of bazaar around Meenakshi Temple in Madurai
The Hindu A view of bazaar around Meenakshi Temple in Madurai

Become a part of Storytrails next month and explore your city like never before

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be at the Meenakshi Temple when the gates open at dawn or close at night? Have you ever cast a glance at the trees that dot the concentric streets around the temple even though you may have walked past them so many times? Have you ever given a thought to the life of the vendors who sell knick-knacks outside Goddess Meenakshi’s abode? Or the story behind the shops that sell tamarind and asafoetida?

If you care to go beyond the plain art, architecture, history, heritage and rituals of the Temple and dig deep into the life surrounding Madurai’s landmark monument, you will find cool stories, fascinating facts and valuable information. More than the buildings, the natives and their activities unique unto themselves make the city what it is.

Storytrails, a Chennai-based business venture on culture tourism, is coming to Madurai to dig out stories behind ordinary sights in the Temple Town and help guests uncover local gems.

Says Managing Director Vijay Prabhat Kamalakara, “Travel destinations are not just to be seen. They have to be experienced. And that can be achieved only by getting a glimpse into the local way of life.”

Getting to know a city inside and out needs a little savoir faire. Using stories as the medium, Storytrails team will take both residents and tourists on different trails to explore Madurai life.

How to tell a story

“The emphasis will be on a subtle presentation of fascinating customs and traditional lifestyle practices that are unique to the region. Ours is not a tourist stopover at places of importance. We believe stories from the street lend the deep-rooted flavour. We want to be the story behind the unique aspects of the city,” he says.

The trails will be theme-based and hosted by story tellers to help guests learn and appreciate local customs and symbolism, bazaars, dances, rural life, mysticism, jewellery or any other theme that will help to bind interesting and unexpected sights and relevant activities together.

Though the Storytrails team had explored the city three years ago, for want of co-partners and local story tellers the project didn’t take off. “We were keen to make our foray outside Chennai,” says Vijay. “Madurai is as rich as Chennai. The location is also convenient for our team to come visiting. This time we found a local partner who will manage the business side to promote the concept. We will be responsible for the content, trail themes and design, web support and quality assurance.”

Local partner

With help from the J.C. Residency Group here, Storytrails will launch itself in Madurai on October 7. Though the team is yet to firm up all the themes, which may include jasmine, Sungudi saris, mystics and the village trail, the inaugural trail will be the Bazaar Trail around the Meenakshi Amman Koil, where, says Vijay, every sight has a story to tell.

“Trails will be participative, creative and innovative. Each trail will be well researched and documented to bring out the local flavour without losing its richness,” he promises.

On these trails, the stories told will have some surprise element. “We aim at a complete experience without burdening the tourist with information. Conversations are the central point of our trails,” says Vijay, himself an avid traveller. “Our story trails will be crisp, fun and totally experiential. The sight-seeing will be purely coincidental.”

Vijay, an MBA graduate from IIT Indore, launched Storytrails India Pvt. Ltd. in Chennai six years ago with the belief that “there is no better vehicle than a story trail to touch, feel, see, hear and taste what a city has to offer.” It all depends on how interestingly a story is narrated, he adds.

Very few care to know about the city they live in. It is best to get under the skin of a city and make it culturally and vibrantly alive and known, he says.

So be a tourist in your own city and find out some quirky stories. Read up local history and let your mind wander back through centuries to imagine what might have taken place where you stand now. Here is your chance to be the guide or the guided. Vijay and his team are trying to establish a core team of local storytellers. If you like the idea and can talk about your city with passion and tell its stories with panache, if you are interested in odd talks and assorted trivia, then call 7373737307 to join the team and take the colour and chaos of your city to a new height.

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