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Changing the story line

We have stories that hail vengeance but not retribution, celebrate aggression but not humility, glorify nirvana in next birth as opposed to living well

Stories and tales are an integral part of every culture, sect and region. In fact, it is one of the many aspects that differentiate men from apes, the compelling story-telling ability that carries forward folklore as a cerebral signature.

Stories are everywhere. Right from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea to the skyscrapers of New York, these heirlooms are cherished, passed on and retold.

India, especially, is a rich cauldron of history brimming with stories. And we Indians are attached to them. Our love for narration is a matter of lore. India has the largest number of movies made each year, in 20 different languages.

It’s not just the fables and tales that I am talking about. It is about any content, any narrative, fact or fiction, creative or regular. There were the stories that we are told as children, stories we tell our children. We all grew up listening to them. At a macro level, there are the stories that governments tell, those that politicians tell us, stories employers tell us, stories handed over to us by history and culture, stories that brands or agents sell us and finally, the stories we tell ourselves. Just the sheer variety is rich and fascinating.

I am not writing about the greatness or importance of these stories. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. This is about the stories we choose to tell. And the ones we should actually be telling instead. This is about the missed nuances, the biased narrations and the distorted truths. Not all narrations are shared and received equally, not all voices heard and not all perspectives represented.

How many stories have you come across that tell about the mistakes that the hero makes? We sing odes to victories but avoid the stories of failure, We have stories that hail vengeance but not retribution, celebrate aggression but not humility, glorify nirvana in next birth as opposed to living well. We have a disproportionate coverage given to mythology as opposed to science, to education as opposed to resourcefulness, to stories of men born of a higher caste, to specific sports or music, to flamboyance as opposed to simplicity and so on.

The problem with incomplete or one-sided stories is that they contain a hint of bias which is heard, ruminated and passed on, many times over, establishing it as a way of life. It is time we gave the way to fresh narratives and fresh perspectives to replace outdated mindsets. It is important to acknowledge that heroes do make mistakes, richness is not just bank balance, and most important, everything the characters did, they did it of their own volition.

It is heartening to see to that we are taking baby steps for inclusiveness in our quest for good narratives. There are a good number of tabloids and newspapers that cover articles on local inspirational stories, updates on science and environment, accounts of struggling yet determined start-ups. It is up to the reader to shun sensational and overdramatic accounts of events and choose the worthy stories within the white noise. We aspire to the stories we are told. So it’s time we tell and listen to better stories.

divyasaroja.nitw@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 5:55:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/changing-the-story-line/article31129681.ece

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