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SRAVASTI DATTA
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Chat Storyteller Craig Jenkins finds The Ramayana and The Mahabharata fascinating for their relevance

It is not just Craig Jenkins’ knowledge of The Ramayana and The Mahabharata that will leave you impressed. His attempts at re-working the stories in these epics to address contemporary issues will make you wonder at his ability to get to the heart of the timeless stories. A well-known storyteller, Craig has engaged children and adults alike in the UK and India.

Craig was introduced to the epics while a student of Drama and Film studies at the University of Kent, when he attended a storytelling session by Dr. Vayu Naidu. In 2007, Vayu asked Craig to train with her. Craig’s interest in the epics led him to explore them further. During his stint as artist in residency at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam in Tamil Nadu, Craig discovered the contemporariness of the stories. “Draupadi’s disrobing, for example, is violence against women. The story of Karna looks at abandoned children being given away,” says Craig who was recently at Hippocampus to conduct storytelling sessions. His in-depth research of the epics led him to devise adaptations addressing contemporary issues. Craig re-worked Abhimanyu’s story to study child soldiers. He has received moving responses from children about the epics, particularly those who don’t know the epics. A girl told Craig how much she admires Draupadi because she stood up for herself. “She told me Western princesses aren’t so brave, all they do is wait to be rescued.”

Craig says what makes The Ramayana and The Mahabharata interesting is that they are holistic depictions of life. “It is an interface between a story and reality because every one of these stories allows us to question. When Jambavan tells Hanuman about his childhood, Hanuman discovers the power within. This story is a metaphor for those times in life when we don’t know what we are capable of, but it takes one moment to make us realise that we can do it.”

SRAVASTI DATTA

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