At the new venue of Atta Galatta, it was an evening of stories told eloquently by storyteller Ameen Haque

He widened his eyes, smiled a big smile, played a soulful tune on his mouth organ, and then began to tell stories as children repeated enthusiastically after him: Once upon a time and dur chaliye, dur chaliye, dur, dur, dur.

Ameen Haque, founder of The Storywallahs, charmed children and adults alike at a storytelling session held at Atta Galatta last week.

He took them through a story of a family of mice in search of the “most strongest and powerful groom” for their daughter and the clever spider who tricks other animals and eats them up.

The children listened in rapt attention for an hour. They cheered, laughed and clapped at every turn the stories took. Ameen used all the techniques of effective storytelling, from inflection, to body language, to spontaneous weaving of stories and bringing each character of the stories alive.

“I narrate old stories we are familiar with in a refreshing way as well as tell other, lesser known versions of Indian stories. Who has heard of Sita’s Ramayana or other versions of the Mahabharata? Not many, so that is our primary focus,” says Ameen.

Parents who accompany their children are surprised to find themselves drawn to the stories too.

Ameen, in fact, introduces his storytelling sessions thus: “for kids and kids of all ages.” He believes that there is a child in each of us that is “waiting to be expressed.”

To get children to sit down and listen to stories for an hour is no easy task, but Ameen seems to make it appear effortless. “That is the power of stories! I engage children without being strict,” he says.

Ameen says The Storywallahs has a three-pronged mission: revive storytelling as a performance art; involve volunteers and use stories for learning; focus on schools for special children and orphanages and work with corporate houses to improve communication skills.

Ameen trained as an actor under theatre personality Abhishek Majumdar at The Indian Ensemble Theatre and worked as an advertising professional before founding The Storywallahs.

What struck the gathering was Ameen’s observation about a listener’s contribution to a storytelling session. “If speaking was more important than listening then we would have two tongues and one ear.”