Who says story-telling is for kids? A bunch of grown ups hang out to listen to stories and spin some yarns of their own

It is a windy, samosa-and-tea kind of an evening. It is also perfect for an evening of spinning yarns. ‘On the Go’ is dimly lit and there are cosy seating arrangements for people who will come there to do just that – tell stories and listen to others telling them. Cakes, samosas and tea are passed around, and the spotlight comes on. Chithan Prasadh takes up position and starts. He reads aloud a translation of writer Sujatha’s short story, Thimala.

Cat-a-lyst is hosting a storytelling competition, and everyone from 15-year-old Nandhikaa Nambi to septuagenarian Minoo Vania is geared up to read out their stories.

Out of the 11 participants, eight are reading their own stories. Jayashree V Murthy narrates the tale of a rain tree on Mettupalayam Road. Shivaguru N, student faculty at TIME, makes up a story on the spot. “I took part in the storytelling session organised by Cat-a-lyst in January,” he says. “I did an extempore narration then and decided to do the same today too. I’m even wearing the same shirt I wore during the previous session!”

Writer Shobhana Kumar is next. Her story, The Invisible Intruder, is about an old man being abandoned by his family. Following this, Minoo Vania charms the gathering with the tale of a chipmunk morphing into a man. The youngest participant in the group, Nandhikaa Nambi, reads out Margaret and I, a story with a twist in its tail, about a software engineer who rescues a woman on the road. Rajeev Mathur’s dramatic rendition of Anton Chekov’s A Slander has the audience in splits.

Srividya Sivakumar, who introduces herself as the “unreliable narrator”, reads out three of her “self-exploratory” stories – Shade, Spellbound and Stubborn. The stories read like poetry and sound like music. (Incidentally, she wins the competition.)

Madhumitha Varadaraj’s Stories from the void border on poetry too. Keeping Surjeet Singh (the prisoner released from Lahore Jail recently) in mind, Peirce Nigli reads out Tibor Dery’s Love. The story is that of a political prisoner who comes back home after serving his term. The last storyteller for the evening is Shashi Ghulati. She proudly reads out her grand-daughter’s Vincent. The endearing tale about a stable boy being mistaken for the head pastry chef at Versailles Palace leaves the audience feeling warm-fuzzy.

The event co-ordinator, Peirce Nigli says, “We organised a session in January to celebrate storytelling and had a tremendous response then. Through sessions such as this one and the poetry reading that we had in March, we discovered that a lot of Coimbatoreans are closet poets and short story writers.”

He says that during the first storytelling session, many of the participants read out stories written by someone else. “A lot of people expressed interest when we announced this session, but we had to restrict the number of participants to 11 for lack of time.”

Brindha Shanmughan is one of those who wanted to read stories during the session but couldn't. So, she decided to listen to stories this time and promises to participate the next time. She says, “It was a different experience. I thought this would be like storytelling for kids. But it turned out to be an interesting story reading session for the bigger children!”