Three storytellers from Bangalore tell us how tales can be told in diverse ways

Storytelling, has solid roots in Bangalore. The city is home to the storytelling institute, Kathalaya, cultural centres such as Atta Galatta and Jagriti Theatre have provided a platform to storytellers to showcase their talent and initiatives such as Bookalore have conducting sessions for children of every age group. Storytellers are pursuing the art form not just in terms of performance, but also experimenting with it as a tool for education. Three storytellers speak of their experiences with the art form.

Arthi Anand

Author of children’s books such as Ranganna and Have you seen this? Arthi takes time out of her corporate job to pursue her love for storytelling.

“When I was telling my children stories, I noticed that rather than reading to them, narrating stories held their attention.”

She went onto conduct many storytelling sessions, evolving a style of her own and has since been flooded with requests. “My style is more interactive. I am fairly good at craft and so create art work for the stories I tell. I also sing.”

Her Facebook page, Arts Tales with Arthi Anand has quite a fan following. “I conduct at least two events that are open to the public and one for a volunteer event at Kidwai Oncology unit and for the Ejipura slum kids.” Arthi’s storytelling sessions are wide-ranging, from The Story Feast series, in which she spins stories around food for children to Back to School Parade events. “For Pratham Books, I am doing the Pratham Books Story Express, where I tell stories from any Pratham book and the story express travels through India.”

Arthi will also be conducting a session for Bookalore this month. Her repertoire includes not just Indian stories, but even Cuban folktales and African stories. With every story, Arthi is inventive and creative and she believes that storytelling plays a very important role in education.

“I don’t like children to be passive listeners. I like to get them to seek information and give information.”

Vikram Sridhar

A theatre personality, a storyteller and passionate about conservation, Vikram Sridhar’s varied passions inform his storytelling. He always had a love for storytelling, but the decision to pursue it professionally came after a session he did with Bookalore. “Aditi De asked me to narrate a story to children without the book. I kept the book aside and told the story. The children loved it.” And there was no looking back for him since.

Vikram initiated Around the Story Tree that uses storytelling to convey the importance of conservation and celebrates traditional human-to- human interaction. “Stories often depict animals in a particular, stereotyped way. For example, foxes are sly and snakes are dangerous. I want to correct these assumptions in my stories.” Moving away from the world of gadgets, which consumes much of our modern lives, Vikram wears handloom clothes and serves traditional food, during his storytelling sessions.

“I had recently done a session on the origin of the vada pav at Atta Galatta, where we actually served vada pav,” says the co-founder of the theatre group Tahatto. He will be conducting a session on June 27 at 6 pm at Rangasthala, Rangoli Metro Art Centre, elephant folk tales from around the world as part of an event presented by Friends of Elephants.

Ameen Haque

Ameen Haque founded The Storywallahs about two years ago. “I have been telling stories a little longer,” he adds. He didn’t want storytelling to be just another leisure activity, but a serious business. “I wanted storytelling to work in its economic sense. I chose to monetise it, make it professional, because then it takes away the laidback attitude towards storytelling.” Though Ameen is the visible face of The Storywallahs, he says each team member contributes significantly. “I see The Storywallahs as a collective of like-minded storytellers with a shared belief. There are others such as Champa Saha, Ayshwarya Sharma and Shreya Biswas who have done some incredible work. .”

The Storywallahs have had sessions in cultural spaces, but their reach is far wider than that. “We work with underprivileged children. We conduct sessions at Spastics Society and for slum kids and we even look to work with corporates.”

Stressing the importance of storytelling in education, Ameen says: “Story-based learning results in long-term learning. Rote learning results in short-term memory.” Ameen gravitates towards stories that are entertaining but also are uplifting and seeks to challenge stereotypes.