Chennai

A story about telling stories

Pretigaya Haran. Photo: Special Arrangement  

It is a story that Pretigaya Haran plans to tell her audience, a few years down the line. In fact, this story would be about the art of telling stories via technology, a situation necessitated by the pandemic.

Pretigaya is a freelance storyteller from Chennai who would receive invites to schools and activity centres and many events in the pre-COVID days. She is now connecting with her audience digitally.

“I have done 69 sessions since the pandemic began and it is more than what I would have done otherwise,” says Pretigaya, scrolling down her excel sheet to get the exact count. “It is like a high jump in my seven-year-old career.”

In March 2020, when lockdown was imposed, Pretigaya was hesitant about going online with her stories.

“I had my misgivings about narrating stories online and due to that, I was holding myself back. In a face-to-face storytelling session, there would be emotion, and I would draw energy from the audience. How could that be achieved by peering into a screen? That was the question,” recalls Pretigaya.

Shaking off the internal resistance, she had her first public speaking workshop on April 20 online and since then there has been no looking back. “The session that I usually conduct over five weeks, I was able to do in a week,” she says.

During the last summer vacation, she had many new participants joining her sessions.

“I was on top of the world as I did not have to effect any collaborations to get new audience. WhatsApp and Facebook were enough to spread the word,” says Pretigaya, who runs Story Sack.

Pretigaya points out that her audience now are from the United States, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and other places.

The pandemic also paved the way for her to share stories in her mother tongue, Rajasthani. “I never thought there would be an audience for this both in India and abroad,” she says.

Pretigaya was new to technology but the response from the first few events clearly set the ball rolling. Before any session, she has her rules spelt out clearly which include that videos be turned on.

Traditional storytelling is more powerful but digital storytelling can be made interactive and engaging by using various digital tools, she feels.

Pretigaya has been trying to derive the most out of the medium and is improvising on her content production techniques to reach out to children and adults by offering them a mix of entertainment and information.

“I bought a new laptop and a “light” that sits behind the laptop,” she says. She has a world map in her room that serves as background screen and books that are changed depending on the audience that she is catering to.

“I use breakout rooms and other features in Zoom to make my sessions more engaging and I am still exploring many more features thanks to the feedback from my participants,” she says. “Through trail and error I have learnt a lot, sufficient to be able to perform better.”


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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 10:04:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-story-about-telling-stories/article34983324.ece

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